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Cornell University Library 
BJ1136 .S68 1918 

Justification of the good: an essay on m 


3 1924 028 962 128 


Cornell University 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

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the United States on the use of the text. 






By Fedor Sologub 


By Vladimir Solovyof 




By Alexander Kuprin 




By Valery Brussof 


By Vladimir Solovyof 












It may be of use to the reader approaching Solovyof for the first 
time if I state in an elementary form the ideas to which the 
Russian philosopher specially consecrated his life and energies. 
They were : 

The universal Church, the idea of the unity of Christendom, 
and beyond that ultimately the conscious unity of mankind. 
Not a world-republic, however, but a world-church. 

The evolution of the God-man, not the superman with his 
greater earth-sense and fierceness, but the God-man with his 
greater heaven-sense, mystical sense. 

The Eternal Feminine, a characterisation of all humanity at 
one in the mystical body of the Church. Woman as the final 
expression of the material world in its inward passivity. 

Love as the highest revelation, the gleam of another world 
upon our ordinary existence. Love, therefore, as the proof of 
immortality, the guerdon and sense of it. 

Sancta Sophia, the Heavenly Wisdom, the grand final unity 
of praise, the wall of the city of God. 

The Justification of the Good is the book in which Solovyof 
elucidates the laws of the higher idealism. It is a classical work 
of the utmost importance in Russian studies. All that is positive 
in modern Russian thoyght springs from the teaching of Solovyof. 
Time is only now coming abreast of him and he appears especially 
as the prophet of this era, with his vision of united humanity and 
the realisation of the kingdom. All students of thought and 
religion, both here and in America, ought to feel indebted to 


Mrs. Duddington for the brilliant translation she has done. 
Tolstoy we know ; Dostoievsky we know ; and now comes a 
new force into our life, Solovyof, the greatest of the three. 
Through Solovyof we shall see Russia better and Europe better. 



The object of this book is to show the good as truth and righteous- 
ness, that is, as the only right and consistent way of life in all 
things and to the end, for all who decide to follow it. I mean the 
Good as such ; it alone justifies itself and justifies our confidence 
in it. And it is not for nothing that before the open grave, 
when all else has obviously failed, we call to this essential Good 
and say, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, for Thou hast taught us 
Thy justification." 

In the individual, national, and historical life of humanity, the 
Good justifies itself by its own good and right ways. A moral 
philosophy, true to the Good, having discovered these ways in the 
past, indicates them to the present for the future. 

When, in setting out on a journey, you take up a guide-book, 
you seek in it nothing but true, complete, and clear directions with 
regard to the route chosen. This book will not persuade you to 
go to Italy or Switzerland if you have decided to go to Siberia, 
nor will it provide you with money to traverse the oceans if you 
can only pay the fare down to the Black Sea. 

Moral philosophy is no more than a systematic guide to the 
right way of life's journey for men and nations ; the author is 
only responsible for his directions being correct, complete, and 
coherent. But no exposition of the moral norms — of the con- 
ditions, i.e. for attaining the true purpose of life — can have any 
meaning for the man who consciously puts before him an utterly 


different aim. To indicate the necessary stations on the road to 
the better, when the worse has been definitely chosen, is not 
merely a useless but an annoying and even insulting thing to do, 
for it brihgs the bad choice back to one's mind, especially when 
in our inmost heart the choice is unconsciously and in spite of 
ourselves felt to be both bad and irrevocable. 

I have not the slightest intention of preaching virtue and 
denouncing vice ; I consider this to be both an idle and an immoral 
occupation for a simple mortal, since it presupposes an unjust and 
proud claim to be better than other people. What matters, from 
the point of view of moral philosophy, are not the particular devia- 
tions from the right way, however great they may be, but only 
the general, definite, and decisive choice between two moral paths, 
a choice made with full deliberation. The question may be asked 
whether every man makes such a choice. It certainly is not made 
by people who die in their infancy, and, so far as clear conscious- 
ness of self is concerned, many grown-up people are not far 
removed from babes. Moreover, it should be noted that even 
when conscious choice has been made, it cannot be observed from 
outside. The distinction of principle between the two paths has 
no empirical definiteness, and cannot be practically defined. I have 
seen many strange and wondrous things, but two objects have I 
never come across in nature : a man who has finally attained 
perfect righteousness, and a man who has finally become utterly 
evil. And all the pseudo-mystical cant based upon external and 
practically applicable divisions of humanity into the sheep and 
the goats, the regenerate and the unregenerate, the saved and the 
damned, simply reminds me of the frank words of the miller — 

Long have I travelled 

And much have I seen, 
But copper spurs on water pails 

Saw I never ne'en. 

At the same time I think of the lectures I heard long ago 
at the University on embryology and zoology of the inverte- 


brate. These lectures enabled me, among other things, to form a 
definite conception of the two well-known truths, namely, that 
at the lowest stages of organic life no one but a learned biologist, 
and sometimes not even he, can distinguish the vegetable from the 
animal forms, and that at the early stages of the intra-uterine life 
only a learned embryologist can tell, and not always with certainty, 
the embryo of man from the embryo of some other creature, often 
of a distinctly unpleasant one. It is the same with the history of 
humanity and with the moral world. At the early stages the two 
paths are very close together, and outwardly indistinguishable. 

But why, it will be asked, do I speak with regard to the moral 
world, of the choice between two paths only ? The reason is, that 
in spite of all the multiplicity of the forms and expressions or 
life, one path only leads to the life that we hope for and renders it 
eternal. All other paths, which at first seem so like it, lead in the 
opposite direction, fatally draw farther and farther away from it, 
and finally become merged together in the one path of eternal 

In addition to these two paths that diiFer in principle, some 
thinkers try to discover a third path, which is neither good nor 
bad, but natural or animal. Its supreme practical principle is best 
expressed by a German aphorism, which, however, was unknown 
both to Kant and to Hegel : Jedes Tierchen hat sein Plaisirchen. 
This formula expresses an unquestionable truth, and only stands in 
need of amplification by another truth, equally indisputable : Allen 
Tieren fatal ist zu krepiren. And when this necessary addition 
is made, the third path — that of animality made into a principle — 
is seen to be reduced to the second path of death.^ It is impos- 
sible for man to avoid the dilemma, the final choice between the 
two paths — of good and of evil. Suppose, indeed, we decide to take 
the third, the animal path, which is neither good nor bad, but 

^ The pseudo-superhuman path, thrown into vivid light by the madness of the 
unhappy Nietzsche, comes to the same thing. See below, Preface to the First 


merely natural. It is natural for animals, just because animals do 
not decide anything, do not choose between this path and any 
other, but passively follow the only one upon which they have 
been placed by a will foreign to them. But when man actively 
decides to follow the path of moral passivity, he is clearly guilty of 
falsehood, wrong, and sin, and is obviously entering not upon the 
animal path, but upon that of the two human paths which proves 
in the end, if not at the beginniiig, to be the path of eternal evil 
and death. It is indeed easy to see from the first that it is worse 
than the animal path. Our younger brothers are deprived of 
reason, but they undoubtedly possess an inner sense ; and although 
they cannot consciously condemn and be ashamed of their nature 
and its bad, mortal way, they obviously suffer from it ; they long 
for something better which they do not know but which they 
dimly feel. This truth, once powerfully expressed by St. Paul 
(Rom. viii. 19-23), and less powerfully repeated by Schopen- 
hauer, is entirely confirmed by observation. Never does a human 
face bear the expression of that profound, hopeless melancholy 
which, for no apparent reason, overshadows sometimes the faces 
of animals. It is impossible for man to stop at the animal self- 
satisfaction, if only because animals are not in the least self-satisfied. 
A conscious human being cannot be an animal, and, whether he will 
or no, he must choose between two paths. He must either become 
higher and better than his material nature, or become lower and 
worse than the animal. And the essentially human attribute 
which man cannot be deprived of consists not in the fact that he 
becomes this or that, but in the fact that he becomes. Man gains 
nothing by slandering his younger brothers and falsely describing 
as animal and natural the path of diabolical persistence in the 
wrong — the path which he himself has chosen, and which is 
opposed both to life and to nature. 

What I most desired to show in this book is the manner in 
which the one way of the Good, while remaining true to itself, 


and, consequently, justifying itself, grows in completeness and 
definiteness as the conditions of the historical and natural environ- 
ment become more complex. The chief claim of my theory is to 
establish in and through the unconditional principle of morality 
the complete inner connection between true religion and sound 
politics. It is a perfectly harmless claim, since true religion 
cannot force itself upon any one, and politics are free to be as 
unsound as they like — at their own risk,- of course. At the same 
time moral philosophy makes no attempt to guide particular 
individuals by laying down any external and absolutely definite 
rules of conduct. If any passage in the book should strike the 
reader as ' moralising ' he will find that either he has misunder- 
stood my meaning or that I did not express myself with sufficient 

But I have done my best to be clear. While preparing this 
second edition I read the book over five times in the course of 
nine months, every time making fresh additions, both small and 
great, by way of explanation. Many defects of exposition still 
remain, but I hope they are not of such a nature as to lay me 
open to the menace, " Cursed is he who doeth the work of God 
with negligence." 

Whilst I was engaged in writing this book I sometimes ex- 
perienced moral benefit from it ; perhaps this is an indication that 
the book will not be altogether useless for the reader also. If this 
should be the case it will be enough to justify this 'justification 
of the good.' 


Moscow, December 8, 1898. 



Is there any meaning in life ? If there is, is that meaning moral 
in character, and is its root in the moral sphere ? In what does 
it consist, and what is the true and complete definition of it ? 
These questions cannot be avoided, and there is no agreement 
with regard to them in modern consciousness. Some thinkers 
deny all meaning to life, others maintain that the meaning of life 
has nothing to do with morality, and in no way depends upon our 
right or good relation to God, men, and the world as a whole ; 
the third admit the importance of the moral norms for life, but 
give conflicting definitions of them, which stand in need of analysis 
and criticism. 

Such analysis cannot in any case be dismissed as unnecessary. 
At the present stage of human consciousness the few who already 
possess a firm and final solution of the problem of life ^r themselves 
must justify it for others. An intellect which has overcome its 
own doubts does not render the heart indifferent to the delusions 
of others. 


Some of those who deny the meaning of life are in earnest 
about it, and end by taking the practical step of committing 
suicide. Others are not in earnest, and deny the meaning of life 
solely by means of arguments and pseudo-philosophic systems. I 


am certainly not opposed to arguments and systems, but I am 
referring to men who regard their philosophising as a thing on its 
own account, which does not bind them to any concrete actions or 
demand any practical realisation. These men and their intellectual 
exercises cannot be taken seriously. Truths like the judgment 
that the angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles 
remain true quite independently of the person who utters them 
and of the life he leads ; but a pessimistic valuation of life is not 
a mathematical truth — it necessarily includes the personal, sub- 
jective attitude to life. When the theoretical pessimist affirms 
as a real objective truth that life is evil and painful, he thereby 
expresses his conviction that this is so for every one, including 
himself. In that case, why does he go on living and enjoying 
the evil of life as though it were a good ? It is sometimes urged 
that instinct compels us to live in spite of the rational conviction 
that life is not worth living. But this appeal to instinct is vain. 
Instinct is not an external mechanically compelling force, but is 
an inner conditiori which prompts every living creature to seek 
certain states which appear to it to be pleasant or desirable. The 
fact that in virtue of his instinct the pessimist finds pleasure in 
life seems to undermine the basis of his pseudo-rational conviction 
that life is evil and painful. He may say that the pleasures of life 
are illusory. What, however, can be the meaning of these words 
from his point of view ? If one recognises the positive meaning 
of life many things may be dismissed as illusory in comparison, as 
drawing our attention away from the chief thing. St. Paul could 
say that by comparison with the kingdom of heaven, which is 
won through a life of renunciation, all carnal affections and 
pleasures are as dung and rubbish in his eyes. But a pessimist 
who does not believe in a kingdom of heaven, and attaches no 
positive significance to a life of renunciation, can have no standard 
for distinguishing illusion from truth. 

From this point of view everything is reduced to the state of 
pleasure or of pain which is being actually experienced ; but no 


pleasure while it is being experienced can be an illusion. The 
only way to justify pessimism on this low ground is childishly to 
count the number of pleasures and pains in human life, assuming 
all the time that the latter are more numerous than the former, 
and that, therefore, life is not worth living. This calculus of 
happiness could only have meaning if arithmetical sums of pleasures 
and pains actually existed, or if the arithmetical difference between 
them could itself become a sensation ; since, however, in actual 
reality sensations exist only in the concrete, it is as absurd to 
reckon them in abstract figures as to shoot at a stone fortress with 
a cardboard gun. If the only motive for continuing to live is to 
be found in the surplus of the pleasurable over the painful sensa- 
tions, then for the vast majority of men this surplus is a fact : 
men live and find that life is worth living. With them, no doubt, 
must be classed such theoreticians of pessimism who talk of the 
advantages of non-existence, but in reality prefer any kind of 
existence. Their arithmetic of despair is merely a play of mind 
which they themselves contradict, finding, in truth, more pleasure 
than pain in life, and admitting that it is worth living to the end. 
From comparing their theory with their practice one can only 
conclude that life has a meaning and that they involuntarily sub- 
mit to it, but that their intellect is not strong enough to grasp 
that meaning. 

Pessimists who are in earnest and commit suicide also involun- 
tarily prove that life has a meaning. I am thinking of conscious 
and self-possessed suicides, who kill themselves because of disap- 
pointment or despair. They supposed that life had a certain 
meaning which made it worth Hving, but became convinced that 
that meaning did not hold good. Unwilling to submit passively 
and unconsciously — as the theoretical pessimists do — to a different 
and unknown meaning, they take their own life. This shows, no 
doubt, that they have a stronger will than the former, but proves 
nothing as against the meaning of life. These men failed to 
discover it, but what did they seek it in ? There are two types 



of passionate men among them : the passion of some is purely 
personal and selfish (Romeo, Werther), that of others is connected 
with some general interest which, however, they separate from 
the meaning of existence as a whole (Cleopatra, Cato of Utica), 
Neither the first nor the second care to know the meaning of 
universal life, although the meaning of their own existence 
depends upon it. Romeo Icilled himself because he could not 
have Juliet. The meaning of life for him was to possess that 
woman. If, however, this really were the meaning of life, it 
would be wholly irrational. In addition to Romeo forty thousand 
gentlemen might find the meaning of their life in possessing that 
same Juliet, so that this supposed meaning would forty thousand 
times contradict itself. Allowing for difference in detail, we find 
the same thing at the bottom of every suicide : life is not what in 
my opinion it ought to be, therefore life is senseless and is not worth 
living. The absence of correspondence between the arbitrary 
demands of a passionate nature and the reality is taken to be the 
result of some hostile fate, terrible and senseless, and a man kills 
himself rather than submit to this blind force. It is the same thing 
with persons belonging to the second type. The queen of Egypt, 
conquered by the world-wide power of Rome, would not take part 
in the conqueror's triumph, and killed herself by means of a 
poisonous snake. Horace, a Roman, called her a great woman for 
doing it, and no one would deny that there is a grandeur about 
her death. But if Cleopatra was looking to her own victory as 
to a thing that ought to be, and regarded the victory of Rome as 
simply the senseless triumph of an irrational force, she, too, took 
her own blindness to be a sufficient reason for rejecting the truth 
of the whole. 

The meaning of life obviously cannot coincide with the 
arbitrary and changeable demands of each of the innumerable 

human entities. If it did, it would be non-meaning that is it 

would not exist at all. It follows, therefore, that a disappointed 
and despairing suicide was not disappointed in and despaired of the 


meaning of life, but, on the contrary, of his hope that life might 
be meaningless. He had hoped that life would go in the way he 
wanted it to, that it would always and in everything directly satisfy 
his blind passions and arbitrary whims, i.e. that it would be sense- 
less — of that he was disappointed and found that life was not worth 
living. But the very fact of his being disappointed at the world 
not being meaningless proves that there is a meaning in it. This 
meaning, which the man recognises in spite of himself, may be 
unbearable to him j instead of understanding it he may only repine 
against some one and call reality by the name of a ' hostile fate,' 
but this does not alter the case. The meaning of life is simply 
confirmed by the fatal failure of those who reject it : some of them 
(the theoretic pessimists) must live unworthily, in contradiction to 
their own preaching, and others (the practical pessimists or the 
suicides) in denying the meaning of life have actually to deny 
their own existence. Life clearly must have a meaning, since 
those who deny it inevitably negate themselves, some by their 
unworthy existence, and others by their violent death. 


" The meaning of Hfe is to be found in the aesthetic aspect of 
it, in what is strong, majestic, beautiful. To devote ourselves to 
this aspect of life, to preserve and strengthen it in ourselves and in 
others, to make it predominant and develop it further till super- 
human greatness and new purest beauty is attained, this is the 
end and the meaning of our existence." This view, associated with 
the name of the gifted and unhappy Nietzsche, has now become the 
fashionable philosophy in the place of the pessimism that has been 
popular in recent years. Unlike the latter, it does not require 
any criticism imported from outside, but can be disproved on its 
own grounds. Let it be granted that the meaning of life is to be 
found in strength and beauty. But, however much we may 
devote ourselves to the aesthetic cult, we shall find in it no protec- 


tion, nor the least hope of protection, against the general and 
inevitable fact which destroys this supposed independence of 
strength and beauty, and renders void the divine and absolute 
character they are alleged to possess. I mean the feet that 
the end of all earthly strength is impotence, and the end of all 
earthly beauty is ugliness. 

When we speak of strength, grandeur, and beauty there rises 
to the mind of every one, beginning with the Russian provincial 
schoolmaster (see Gogol's Inspector-General) and ending with 
Nietzsche himself, one and the same image, as the most perfect 
historical embodiment of all these aesthetic qualities taken together. 
This instance is sufficient. 

"And it happened after that Alexander, son of Philip, the 
Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chittim, had smitten 
Darius, King of the Persians and Medes, that he reigned in his 
stead, the first over Greece, and made many wars, and won many 
strongholds, and slew the kings of the earth, and went through to 
the ends of the earth, and took spoils of many nations, insomuch 
that the earth was quiet before him, whereupon he was exalted, and 
his heart was lifted up. And he gathered a mighty strong host, 
and ruled over countries, and nations, and kings, who became 
tributaries unto him. And after these things he fell sick, and 
perceived that he should die " (Book I. of the Maccabees). 

Is strength powerless before death really strength ? Is a 
decomposing body a thing of beauty ? The ancient pattern of 
beauty and of strength died and decayed like the weakest and most 
hideous of creatures, and the modern worshipper of beauty and of 
strength became in his lifetime a mental corpse. Why is it that 
the first was not saved by his strength and beauty, and the second 
by his cult of it ? No one can worship a deity which saves 
neither those in whom it is incarnate, nor those who worship it. 

In his last works the unhappy Nietzsche turned his views into 
a furious weapon against Christianity. In doing so he showed 
a low level of understanding befitting French free-thinkers of 


the eighteenth century rather than modern German savants. He 
looked upon Christianity as belonging exclusively to the lower 
classes, and was not even aware of the simple fact that the Gospel 
was from the first received not as a doubtful call to rebellion but 
as a joyful and certain message of sure salvation, that the whole 
force of the new religion lay in the fact that it was founded by 
' the first fruits of them that slept,' who had risen from the dead, 
and, as they firmly believed, secured eternal life to His followers. 
To speak of slaves and pariahs in this connection is irrelevant. 
Social distinctions mean nothing when it is a question of death 
and resurrection. Do not ' the gentle ' die as well as ' the simple' ? 
Were not Sulla the Roman aristocrat and dictator, Antioch the 
king of Syria, and Herod the king of Judaea eaten up by worms 
while still alive ? The religion of salvation cannot be the religion 
for slaves and ' Chandals ' alone — it is the religion for all, since all 
need salvation. Before beginning to preach so furiously against 
equality, one ought to abolish the chief equaliser — death. 

Nietzsche's polemic against Christianity is remarkably shallow, 
and his pretension to be ' antichrist ' would be extremely comical 
had it not ended in such tragedy.^ 

The cult of natural strength and beauty is not directly opposed 
to Christianity, and it is not Christianity that makes it void, but 
its own inherent weakness. Christianity does not by any means 
reject strength and beauty, but it is not satisfied with the strength 
of a dying invalid or the beauty of a decomposing corpse. Chris- 
tianity has never preached hostility to or contempt for strength, 
grandeur, or beauty as such. All Christian souls, beginning with 
the first of them, rejoiced at having had revealed to them the in- 
finite source of all that is truly strong and beautiful, and at being 
saved by it from subjection to the false power and grandeur of the 
powerless and unlovely elements of the world. " My soul doth 
magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 

^ It will be remembered that after passing through a mania of greatness this un- 
fortunate writer fell into complete idiocy. 


. . . For He that is mighty hath done to me great things ; and holy 
is His name. ... He hath shewed strength with his arm ; He 
hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He 
hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of 
low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and 
the rich He hath sent empty away," It is obvious that the con- 
tempt here is only for the false, imaginary strength and wealth, 
and that humility is not the absolute ideal or the final end but 
only the necessary and the right way to heights unattainable to 
the proud. 

Strength and beauty are divine, but not in themselves : there 
is a strong and beautiful Deity whose strength is never exhausted 
and whose beauty never dies, for in Him strength and beauty are 
inseparable from the good. 

No one worships impotence and ugliness ; but some believe 
in the eternal strength and beauty which are conditioned by the 
good and which actually liberate their bearers and worshippers 
from the power of death and corruption, while others extol strength 
and beauty taken in the abstract and fictitious. The first 
doctrine may be waiting for its final victory in the future, but 
this does not make things any better for the second ; it is con- 
quered already, it is always being conquered — it dies with every 
death and is buried in all the cemeteries. 


The pessimism of false philosophers and of genuine suicides 
inevitably leads us to recognise that life has a meaning. The 
cult of strength and beauty inevitably shows that that meaning 
is not to be found in strength and beauty as such, but only as 
conditioned by the triumphant good. The meaning of life is in 
the good ; but this opens the way for new errors in the definition 
of what precisely we are to understand by the good. 

At first sight there appears to be a sure and simple way of 

PREFACE xxiii 

avoiding any errors in this connection. If, it will be urged, the 
meaning of life is the good, it has revealed itself to us already and 
does hot w^ait for any definition on our part. All we have to do 
is to accept it with love and humility, and subordinate to it our 
existence and our individuality, in order to make them rational. 
The universal meaning of life or the inner relation of separate 
entities to the great whole cannot have been invented by us ; it 
was given from the first. The firm foundations of the family 
have been laid down from all eternity ; the family by a living, 
personal bond connects the present with the past and the future ; 
the fatherland widens our mind and gives it a share in the glorious 
traditions and aspirations of the soul of the nation ; the Church, 
by connecting both our personal and our national life with what 
is absolute and eternal, finally liberates us from the limitations of 
a cramped existence. What, then, is there to trouble about ? 
Live in the life of the whole, widen on all sides the limits of your 
small self, 'take to heart' the interests of others and the interest 
of all, be a good member of the family, a zealous patriot, a loyal 
son of the Church, and you will know the good meaning of life 
in practice and have no need to seek for it and look for its defini- 
tion. There is an element of truth in this view, but it is only 
the beginning of truth. It is impossible to stop at this — the case 
is not so simple as it looks. 

Had life with its good meaning assumed at once, from all 
eternity, one unchanging and abiding form, then there would 
certainly be nothing to trouble about. There would be no prob- 
lem for the intellect, but only a question for the will — to accept 
or unconditionally to reject that which has been unconditionally 
given. This was precisely, as I understand it, the position of one 
of the spirits of light in the first act of the creation of the world. 
But our human position is less fateful and more complex. We 
know that the historical forms of the Good which are given to us 
do not form such a unity that we could either accept or reject 
them as a whole. We know also that these forms and principles 


of life did not drop down ready made from heaven but were 
developed in time and on earth. And knowing that they had 
become what they are, we have no rational ground whatever for 
affirming that they are finally and wholly fixed, and that what is 
given at the moment is entirely completed and ended. But if 
it is not ended, it is for us to carry on the work. In the 
times prior to ours the higher forms of life — now the holy 
heritage of the ages — did not come to be of themselves but were 
evolved through men, through their thought and action, through 
their intellectual and moral work. Since the historical form of 
the eternal good is not one and unchanging, the choice has to be 
made between many different things, and this cannot be done 
without the critical work of thought. It must have been 
ordained by God Himself that man should have no external 
support, no pillow for his reason and conscience to rest on, but 
should ever be awake and standing on his own legs. "What is man, 
that Thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that Thou 
visitest him ? " Piety itself forbids us to despise in ourselves and 
in others that which God Himself respects, for the sake of which 
He remembers and visits us — namely, the inner, unique, and 
invaluable dignity of man's reason and conscience. And those 
who are guilty of such contempt and seek to replace the inner 
standard of truth by an external one, suffer natural retribution in 
the fatal failure of their attempt. The concrete, clear, and 
consistent minds among them — minds that cannot be content 
with vague phrases — accomplish with remarkable rapidity a 
direct descent from the certain to the doubtful, from the doubt- 
ful to the false, and from the false to the absurd. "God," 
they argue, "manifests His will to man externally through 
the authority of the Church ; the only true Church is our 
Church, its voice is the voice of God ; the true representatives of 
our Church are the clergy, hence their voice is the voice of God ; 
the true representative of the clergy for each individual is his 
confessor ; therefore all questions of faith and conscience ought 


in the last resort to be decided for each by his confessor." It all 
seems clear and simple. The only thing to be arranged is that 
all confessors should say the same thing, or that there should be 
one confessor only — omnipresent and immortal. Otherwise, the 
difference of opinion among many changing confessors may lead to 
the obviously impious view that the voice of God contradicts itself. 
As a matter of fact, if this individual or collective repre- 
sentative of external authority derives his significance merely 
from his official position, all persons in the same position have 
the same authority which is rendered void by their contradicting 
one another. And if, on the other hand, one or some of 
them derive their superior authority in my eyes from the fact of 
my confidence in them, it follows that I myself am the source and 
the creator of my highest authority, and that I submit to my 
own arbitrary will alone and find in it the meaning of life. This 
is the inevitable result of seeking at all costs an external support for 
reason, and of taking the absolute meaning of life to be some- 
thing that is imposed upon man from without. The man 
who wants to accept the meaning of life on external authority 
ends by taking for that meaning the absurdity of his own 
arbitrary choice. There must be no external, formal relation 
between the individual and fhe meaning of his life. The ex- 
ternal authority is necessary as a transitory stage, but it must not 
be preserved ^r ever and regarded as an abiding and final norm. 
The human ego can only expand by giving inner heartfelt re- 
sponse to what is greater than itself, and not by rendering merely 
formal submission to it, which after all really alters nothing. 


Although the good meaning of life is greater than and prior 
to any individual man, it cannot be accepted as something ready 
made or taken on trust from some external authority. It must be 
understood by the man himself and be made his own through 


faith, reason, and experience. This is the necessary condition 
of a morally-worthy existence. When, however, this necessary 
subjective condition of the good and rational life is taken to be its 
essence and purpose, the result is a new moral error, namely, the 
rejection of all historical and collective manifestations and forms 
of the good, of everything except the inner moral activities and 
states of the individual. This tnoral amorphism or subjectivism is 
the direct opposite of the doctrine of the conservative practical 
humility just referred to. That doctrine affirmed that life and 
reality in their given condition are wiser and better than man, 
that the historical forms which life assumes are in themselves 
good and wise, and that all man has to do is reverently to bow 
down before them and to seek in them the absolute rule and 
authority for his personal existence. Moral amorphism, on the 
contrary, reduces everything to the subjective side, to our own 
self-consciousness and self-activity. The only life for us is our 
own mental life ; the good meaning of life is to be found solely 
in the inner states of the individual and in the actions and rela- 
tions which directly and immediately follow therefrom. This 
inner meaning and inner good is naturally inherent in every one, 
but it is crushed, distorted, and made absurd and evil by the 
different historical developments and institutions such as the state, 
the Church, and civilisation in general. If every one's eyes were 
open to the true state of things, people would be easily persuaded 
to renounce these disastrous perversions of human nature which 
are based in the long run upon compulsory organisations, such as 
the law, the army, etc. All these institutions are kept up by 
intentional and evil deceit and violence on the part of the 
minority, but their existence chiefly depends upon the lack of 
understanding and self-deception of the majority which, besides, 
employ various artificial means for blunting their reason and con- 
science—wine, tobacco, etc. Men, however, are beginning to 
realise the error of their ways, and when they finally give up their 
present views and change their conduct, all evil forms of human 

PREFACE xxvii 

relations will fall to the ground ; evil will disappear as soon as 
men cease to resist it by force, and the moral good will be 
spontaneously manifested and realised among the formless mass of 
'tramping' saints. 

In its rejection of different institutions moral amorphism for- 
gets one institution which is rather important — namely, death, 
and it is this oversight which alone renders the doctrine plausible. 
For if the preachers of moral amorphism were to think of death 
• they would have to affirm one of two things : either that with the 
abolition of the law courts, armies, etc., men will cease to die, or 
that the good meaning of life, incompatible with political kingdoms, 
is quite compatible with the kingdom of death. The dilemma is 
inevitable, and both alternatives to it are equally absurd. It is 
clear that this doctrine, which says nothing about death, contains 
it in itself. It claims to be the rehabilitation of true Christianity. 
It is obvious, however, both from the historical and from the 
psychological point of view, that the Gospel did not overlook 
death. Its message was based in the first place upon the resurrec- 
tion of one as an accomplished fact, and upon the future resurrec- 
tion of all as a certain promise. Universal resurrection means the 
creation of a perfect form for all that exists. It is the ultimate 
expression and realisation of the good meaning of the universe, 
and is therefore the final end of history. In recognising the 
good meaning of life but rejecting all its objective forms, moral 
amorphism must regard as senseless the whole history of the world 
and humanity, since it entirely consists in evolving new forms or 
life and making them more perfect. There is sense in rejecting 
one form of life for the sake of another and a more perfect one, 
but there is no meaning in rejecting form as such. Yet such 
rejection is the logical consequence of the anti-historical view. 
If we absolutely reject the forms of social, political, and religious 
life, evolved by human history, there can be no ground for recog- 
nising the organic forms worked out by the history of nature or 
by the world process, of which the historical process is the direct 


and inseparable continuation. Why should my animal body be 
more real, rational, and holy than the body of my nation ? It 
will be said that the body of a people does not exist, any more 
than its soul, that the idea of a social collective organism is merely 
a metaphor for expressing the totality of distinct individuals. 
If, however, this exclusively mechanical point of view be once 
adopted, we are bound to go further still and say that in reality 
there is no individual organism and no individual soul, and that 
what exists are merely the different combinations of elementary 
particles of matter, devoid of all qualitative content. If the prin- 
ciple of form be denied, we are logically bound to give up the 
attempt to understand and to recognise either the historical or 
the organic life or any existence whatever, for it is only pure 
nothing that is entirely formless and unconditional. 


I have indicated two extreme moral errors that are contra- 
dictory of one another. One is the doctrine of the self-efFacement 
of the human personality before the historical forms of life recog- 
nised as possessing external authority, — the doctrine of passive 
submission or practical quietism; the other is the doctrine of 
the self-affirmation of the human personality against all historical 
forms and authorities — the doctrine of formlessness and anarchy. 
The common essence of the two extreme views, that in which, 
in spite of the opposition between them, they agree, will no doubt 
disclose to us the source of moral errors in general, and will save 
us from the necessity of analysing the particular varieties of moral 
falsity which may be indefinite in number. 

The two opposed views coincide in the fact that neither of 
them take the good in its essence, or as it is in itself, but connect 
it with acts and relations which may be either good or evil accord- 
ing to their motive and their end. In other words, they take 
something which is good, but which may become evil, and they 


put it in the place of the Good itself, treating the conditioned as the 
unconditional. Thus, for instance, it is a good thing and a moral 
duty to submit to national and family traditions and institutions 
in so far, as they express the good or give a definite form to my 
right relation to God, men, and the world. If, howeverj this 
condition is forgotten, if the conditional duty is taken to be 
absolute and ' the national interest ' is put in the place of God's 
truth, the good may become evil and a source of evil. It is 
easy in that case to arrive at the monstrous idea recently put 
forth by a French minister : " It is better to execute twenty 
innocent men than to attack [porter atteinte) the authority of a 
national institution." Take another instance. Suppose that in- 
stead of paying due respect to a council of bishops or to some 
other ecclesiastical authority, as a true organ of the collective 
organisation of piety, from which I do not separate myself, — I 
submit to it unconditionally, without going into the case for 
myself. I assume that this particular council as such is an unfailing 
authority, that is, I recognise it in an external way. And then 
it turns out that the council to which I submitted was the Robber 
Council of Ephesus, or something of the kind, and that owing to 
my wrong and uncalled-for submission to the formal expression 
of the supposed will of God, I have myself suddenly become a 
rebellious heretic. Once more evil has come out of the good. 
Take a third instance. Not trusting the purity of my conscience 
and the power of my intellect, I entrust both my conscience and 
reason to a person vested with divine authority and give up 
reasoning and willing for myself. One would think nothing 
could be better. But my confessor proves to be a wolf in sheep's 
clothing, and instils in me pernicious thoughts and evil rules. 
Once more, the conditional good of humility, accepted uncon- 
ditionally, becomes an evil. 

Such are the results of the erroneous confusion of the good 
itself with the particular forms in which it is manifested. The 
opposite error, which limits the nature of the good by rejecting 


the historical forms of its expression, conies to the same thing. 
In the first case the forms or institutions are taken to be the 
absolute good, which does not correspond to truth and leads to 
evil. In the second case these forms and institutions are un- 
conditionally rejected, and therefore are recognised as uncon- 
ditionally evil, which is again contrary to the truth, and can- 
not therefore lead to anything good. The first maintain, for 
instance, that the will of God is revealed to us through the priest 
only ; the second affirm that this never happens, that the Supreme 
will cannot speak to us through the priest, but is revealed solely 
and entirely in our own consciousness. It is obvious, however, 
that in both cases the will of God has been left out of account and 
replaced, in the first instance, by the priest, and in the second by 
the self-affirming ego. And yet one would think there could be 
no difficulty in understanding that once the will of God is 
admitted its expression ought not to be restricted to or ex- 
hausted by the deliverances either of the inner consciousness or 
of the priest. The will of God may speak both in us and in him, 
and its only absolute and necessary demand is that we should in- 
wardly conform to it and take up a good or right attitude to 
everything, including the priest, and indeed putting him before 
other things for the sake of what he represents. Similarly, when 
the first say that the practical good of life is wholly contained in 
the nation and the state, and the second declare the nation and 
the state to be a deception and an evil, it is obvious that the first 
put into the place of the absolute good its conditional manifesta- 
tions in the nation and the state, and the second limit the 
absolute good by rejecting its historical forms. In their view the 
rejection is unconditional, and the good is conditioned by it. 
But it ought to be obvious that the true good in this sphere 
depends for us solely upon our just and good relation to the nation 
and to the state, upon the consciousness of our debt to them 
upon the recognition of all that they have contained in the past 
and contain now, and of what they must still acquire before they 


can become in the full sense the means of embodying the good 
that lives in humanity. It is possible for us to take up this just 
attitude to the Church, the nation, and the state, and thus to 
render both ourselves and them more perfect ; we can know and 
love them in their true sense, in God's way. Why, then, should 
we distort this true sense by unconditionaLworship, or, worse still, 
by unconditional rejection ? There is no reason why, instead of 
doing rightful homage to the sacred forms, and neither separating 
them from, nor confusing them with, their content, we should 
pass from idolatry to iconoclasm, and from it to a new and worse 

There is no justification for these obvious distortions of the 
truth, these obvious deviations from the right way. It is as clear 
as day that the only thing which ought to be unconditionally 
accepted is that which is intrinsically good in itself, and the only 
thing which ought to be rejected is that which is wholly and 
essentially evil, while all other things ought to be either accepted 
or rejected according to their actual relation to this inner essence 
of good or evil. It is clear that if the good exists it must possess 
its own inner definitions and attributes, which do not finally depend 
upon any historical forms and institutions, and still less upon the 
rejection of them. 

The moral meaning of life is originally and ultimately deter- 
mined by the good itself, inwardly accessible to us through our 
reason and conscience in so far as these inner forms of the good 
are freed by moral practice from slavery to passions and from the 
limitations of personal and collective selfishness. This is the 
ultimate court of appeal for all external forms and events. " Know 
ye not that we shall judge angels ? " St. Paul writes to the faithful. 
And if even the heavenly things are subject to our judgment, this 
is still more true of all earthly things. Man is in principle or in 
his destination an unconditional inner form of the good as an uncon- 
ditional content ; all else is conditioned and relative. The good 
as such is not conditioned by anything, but itself conditions all 


things, and is realised through all things. In so far as the good 
is not conditioned by anything, it is pure ; in so far as it con- 
ditions all things, it is all-embracing ; and in so far as it is realised 
through all things, it is all-powerful. 

If the good were not pure, if it were impossible in each practical 
question to draw an absolute distinction between good and evil, 
and in each particular case to say yes or no, life would be altogether 
devoid of moral worth and significance. If the good were not all- 
embracing, if it were impossible to connect with it all the concrete 
relations of life, to justify the good in all of them, and to correct 
them all by the good, life would be poor and one-sided. Finally, 
if the good had no power, if it could not in the end triumph over 
everything, including ' the last enemy death,' — life would be in 

The inner attributes of the good determine the main problem 
of human life ; its moral meaning is to be found in the service or 
the pure, all-powerful, and all-embracing good. 

To be worthy of its object and of man himself, such service 
must be voluntary, and in order to be that it must be conscious. 
It is the business of moral philosophy to make it an object of 
reflective consciousness, and partly to anticipate the result which 
our reflection must attain. The founder of moral philosophy as a 
science, Kant, dwelt upon the first essential attribute of the absolute 
good, its purity, which demands from man a formally uncon- 
ditional or autonomous will. The pure good demands that it 
should be chosen for its own sake alone ; any other motives are 
unworthy of it. Without repeating what Kant has done so well 
with regard to the question of the formal purity of the good will, 
I have paid particular attention to the second essential attribute of 
the good, namely, its all-embracing character. In doing so I did 
not separate it from the other two attributes (as Kant had done 
with regard to the first), but directly developed the rational and 
ideal content of the all-embracing good out of the concrete moral 
data in which it is contained. As a result, I obtained not the 

PREFACE xxxiii 

dialectical moments of the abstract Idea, as in Hegel, nor the 
empirical complications of natural facts, as in Herbert Spencer, but 
complete and exhaustive moral norms for all the fundamental 
practical relations of the individual and the collective life. It is 
its all-embracing character alone which justifies the good to our 
consciousness ; it is only in so far as it conditions all things that 
it can manifest both its purity and its invincible power. 




Editor's Note . . . . . . vii 

Preface to the Second Edition . . . . ix 

Preface to the First Edition {A Preliminary Conception of the 

Moral Meaning of Life) . . . . . xv 

The General Question as to the Meaning of Life : 

I. Two ways of denying the meaning of life. — Theoretical 
pessimism. — The inner inconsistency of persons who argue about 
the advantages of non-existence, but in truth prefer existence. — 
The fact that they cling to life proves that life has a meaning 
though they do not understand it. — Practical pessimism which 
finds its final expression in suicide. — Suicides also involuntarily 
prove that life has a meaning, for their despair is due to the fact 
that life does not fulfil their arbitrary and contradictory demands. 
These demands could only be fulfilled if life were devoid of 
meaning ; the non-fulfilment proves that life has a meaning which 
these persons, owing to their irrationality, do not wish to know 
(instances : Romeo, Cleopatra) ..... xv 

II. The view that life has an exclusively aesthetic meaning, 
which expresses itself in whatever is strong, majestic, beautiful, 
without relation to the moral good. — This view is unanswerably 
refuted by the fact of death, which transforms all natural strength 
and greatness into nothingness, and all natural beauty into utter 
ugliness (explanation : words of the Bible about Alexander of 
Macedon). — ^ Nietzsche's pitiful attacks on Christianity. — True 
strength, grandeur, and beauty are inseparable from the absolute 
good ........ xix 

III. The view which admits that the meaning of life is to be 
found in the good, but affirms that this good, as given from above, 
and realised in forms of life laid down once for all (family, father- 
land. Church), merely demands that man should submit to it 
without asking any questions. — The insufficiency of this view, 
which forgets that the historical forms of the good possess no 
external unity and finality. — Man therefore must not submit to 



them implicitly, but must know their nature and further their 
growth and development ...... 

IV. The opposite error (moral amorphism), which asserts that 
the good is to be found only in the subjective mental states of 
each individual and in the good relations between men which 
naturally follow therefrom, and that all collectively organised 
forms of society lead to nothing but evil, since they are artificial 
and make use of compulsion. — But the social organisation brought 
about by the historical life of humanity is the necessary continua- 
tion of the physical organisation brought about by the life of the 
universe. — All that is real is complex, nothing exists apart from 
this or that form of collective organisation ; and the principle of 
moral amorphism consistently worked out, logically demands the 
rejection of all that is real for the sake of emptiness or non-being . 

V. The two extreme forms of moral error — the doctrine of 
absolute submission to the historical forms of social life and the 
doctrine of their unconditional rejection (moral amorphism) — 
coincide in so far as neither of them takes the good as such, and 
both regard as unconditionally right or as unconditionally wrong 
things which in their nature are conditional (explanatory examples). 
— Man in his reason and conscience as the unconditional inner 
form, the unconditional content of which is the good. — The 
general inner properties of the good as such : its purity or 
autonomy, in so far as it is not conditioned by anything external 
to it ; its fulness or its all-embracing character in so far as it con- 
ditions everything ; its power or actuality, in so far as it is realised 
through all things. — The purpose of moral philosophy, and 
especially of the system put forward in the present work . 


Moral Philosophy as a Science. 

I. The formal universality of the idea of the good at the lower 
stages of moral consciousness independently of its material content 
(examples and explanations). — The growth of moral consciousness 
gradually introducing into the formal idea of the good a more 
befitting content which is more connected with it inwardly 
naturally becomes the science of Ethics or Moral Philosophy 

II. Moral philosophy does not wholly depend upon positive 
religion. — St. Paul's testimony as to the moral law ' written in the 
hearts' of the Gentiles.— Since there exist many religions and 
denominations, disputes between them presuppose a common 
ground of morality (explanations and examples), and, consequently, 

CONTENTS xxxvii 


the moral norms to which the disputing parties appeal cannot 
depend upon their religious and denominational differences . 3 

III. The independence of the moral from the theoretical 
philosophy (from epistemology and metaphysics). — In moral 
philosophy we study our inner attitude to our own actions (and 
that which is logically connected with it), i.e. something unquestion- 
ably knowable by us, since it is produced by ourselves ; the dis- 
puted question as to the theoretical certainty concerning other 
kinds of being, not connected with us morally, is in this respect 
irrelevant. — The critique of knowledge can go no further than 
doubt the objective existence of that which is known, and such 
theoretical doubt is insufficient to undermine the morally practical 
certitude that certain states and actions of the subject are binding 
as possessed of inner worth. — Besides, theoretical philosophy itself 
overcomes such scepticism in one way or another. — Finally, even 
if it were possible to be perfectly certain of the non-existence of 
the external world, the inner distinction between good and evil 
would not thereby be abolished ; for if it be wrong to bear malice 
against a human being, it is still more so against an empty phantom ; 
if it be shameful slavishly to surrender to the promptings of actual 
sensuality, to be slave to an imaginary sensuality is worse still . 9 

IV. Moral philosophy does not depend upon the affirmative 
answer to the metaphysical question of ' free will,' since morality 
is possible on the hypothesis of determinism, which asserts that 
human actions have a necessary character. — In philosophy we 
must distinguish the purely mechanical necessity, which in itself 
is incompatible with any moral action, from the psycholo^cal 
and the ethical or the rationally ideal necessity. — The unquestion- 
able difference between mechanical movement and a mental reaction 
necessarily called forth by motives, i.e. by presentations associated 
with feelings and desires. — Difference in the quality of motives that 
prevail in the life of this or of that individual enables us to dis- 
tinguish a good spiritual nature from a bad one, and, in so far as 
a good nature, as we know from experience, can be consciously 
strengthened and developed, and a bad consciously corrected and 
reformed, we are given in the domain of psychological necessity 
itself certain conditions for ethical problems and theories . . 14 

V. In the case of man, the universal rational idea of the good, 
expressing itself as the consciousness of absolute duty to conform 
to it, may become the prevailing motive of action, over and above 
different psychological impulses. Man may do good quite irre- 
spectively of considerations of pleasure and pain, for the sake of 
the good as such or of the unconditionally excellent. — The con- 
ception of moral necessity or, what is the same thing, of rational 
freedom. — Just as the psychological necessity (due to mental affec- 
tions) is superior to mechanical necessity, and means freedom from 



it, SO the moral necessity (due to the idea of the good as the pre- 
vailing motive), while remaining necessary, is superior to the 
psychological necessity of mental affections, and means freedom 
from the lower motives. — In order that the absolute idea of the 
good should be a sufficient ground for human action, the subject 
must have a sufficient degree of moral receptivity and a sufficient 
knowledge of the good (explanations and Biblical examples). — It 
is metaphysically possible that absolute evil may be arbitrarily pre- 
ferred to the absolute good. — Moral philosophy, being a complete 
knowledge of the gbod, is presupposed in the correct formulation 
and solution of the metaphysical question concerning the freedom 
of choice between good and evil, and its content does not. depend 
upon the solution of that question . . . • 1 7 



The Primary Data of Morality. 

I. The feeling of shame (originally of sexual modesty) as the 
natural root of human morality. — Actual shamelessness of all animals 
and the supposed shamelessness of certain savage peoples ; the latter 
indicates difference in external relations and not in the feeling 
itself. — Darwin's erroneous inference from phallism . . 25 

II. The profound meaning of shame : that which is ashamed 
in the mental act of shame separates itself from that of which it 
is ashamed. In being ashamed of the fundamental process of his 
animal nature, man proves that he is not merely a natural event or 
phenomenon, but has an independent super-animal significance (con- 
firmation and explanation out of the Bible). The feeling of shame 

is inexplicable from the external and the utilitarian point of view . 28 

III. The second moral datum of human nature — pity or the 
sympathetic feeling which expresses man's moral relation not to 
the lower nature (as in shame) but to living beings like himself — 
Pity cannot be the result of human progress, for it exists among 
the animals also. — Pity is the individual psychological root of the 
right social relations . . . . . .32 

IV. The third moral datum of human nature — the feeling of 
reverence or of piety, which expresses man's due relation to the 



higher priaciple and constitutes the individual psychological root 
of religion. — Darwin's reference to the rudiments of religious feel- 
ing in tame animals ...... 34 

V. The feelings of shame, pity, and reverence exhaust the 
whole range of moral relations possible for man, namely, of rela- 
tions to that which is below him, on a level with him, and above him. 
— These normal relations are determined as the mastery over material 
sensuality, as the solidarity with other living beings, and as the inner 
submission to the superhuman principle. — Other determinations of 
moral life — all the virtues — may be shown to be modifications of 
these three fundamental facts, or as a result of the interaction 
between them and the intellectual nature of man (example) . 35 

VI. Conscience as a modification of shame in a definite and 
generalised form. — The supposed conscience of animals . . 37 

VII. From the fundamental facts of morality human reason 
deduces universal and necessary principles and rules of the moral 

life . . . • • • 39 


The Ascetic Principle in MoRAtiry. 

I. The moral self-affirmation of man as a supermaterial being, 
half-conscious and unstable in the simple feeling of shame, is, by 
the activity of reason, raised into the principle of asceticism. — 
Asceticism is not directed against the material nature in general : 
that nature cannot, as such, be recognised as evil from any point of 
view (proofs from the chief pessimistic doctrines — the Vedanta, the 
Sankhya, Buddhism, Egyptian gnosis, Manicheism) . . 41 

II. The opposition of the spiritual principle to the material 
nature, finding its immediate expression in the feeling of shame and 
developed in asceticism, is called forth not by the material nature 
as such, but by the undue preponderance of the lower life, which 
seeks to make the rational being of man into a passive instrument or 
a useless appendage of the blind physical process. — In analysing the 
meaning of shame, reason logically deduces from it a necessary, 
universal, and morally binding norm : the physical life of man 

must be subordinate to the spiritual . . . .44 

III. The moral conception of spirit and of flesh. — Flesh as 
excited animality or irrationality, false to its essential definition 
to serve as the matter or the potential basis of the spiritual 
life. — Real significance of the struggle between the spirit and 

the flesh ........ 45 

IV. Three chief moments in the conflict of the spirit with the 
flesh: (i) inner distinction of the spirit from the flesh ; (2) actual 


struggle of the spirit for its independence ; (3) clear preponder- 
ance of the spirit over the flesh or abolition of the evil carnal 
element. — Practical importance of the second moment, which gives 
rise to the definite and binding demands of morality and, in the 
first place, to the demand for self-control . . . -47 

V. Preliminary tasks of asceticism : acquisition by the rational 

will of the power to control breathing and sleep . . -49 

VI. Ascetic demands with regard to the functions of nutrition 
and reproduction. — Misunderstandings concerning the question of 
sexual relations. — Christian view of the matter . . .50 

VII. Different aspects of the struggle between the spirit and 
the flesh. — The three psychological moments in the victory of the 
evil principle : thought, imagination, possession. — The correspond- 
ing ascetic rules intended to prevent an evil mental state from 
becoming a passion and a vice : " dashing of the babes of Babylon 
against the stones " ; thinking of something diflFerent ; performing 

a moral action ....... 54 

VIII. Asceticism, or abstinence raised into a principle, is 
unquestionably good. — When this good is taken, as such, to be 
the whole good, we have evil asceticism after the pattern of the 
devil, who neither eats nor drinks, and remains in celibacy. — Since 
an evil or pitiless ascetic, being an imitator of the devil, does not 
deserve moral approbation, it follows that the principle of asceticism 
itself has a moral significance or is good only on condition of 
its being united with the principle of altruism, which has its root 

in pity ... . . 57 

Pity and Altruism. 

I. The positive meaning of pity. — Just as shame singles man 
out from the rest of nature and opposes him to other animals, 
so pity inwardly connects him with the whole world of the 
living ........ 

II. The inner basis of the moral relation to other beings is to be 
found, apart from all metaphysical theories, in compassion or pity 
only, and not in co-pleasure or co-rejoicing. — Positive participation 
in the pleasure of another contains the approval of that pleasure, 
which may, however, be evil. — Participation in it may therefore be 
good or evil according to the object of the pleasure. — Since the co- 
rejoicing may itself be immoral, it cannot in any case be the basis 

of moral relations. — Answer to certain objections . . .60 

III. Pity as a motive of altruistic action and as a possible basis 

of altruistic principles . . . . .67 




IV. Schopenhauer's theory of the irrational or mysterious 
character of compassion in which, it is urged, there is an immediate 
and perfect identification of one entity with another, foreign to it. — 
Criticism of this view. — In the fundamental expression of compas- 
sion — the maternal instinct of animals — the intimate real connec- 
tion between the being who pities and the object of its pity is 
obvious. — Speaking generally, the natural connection given in 
reason and experience between all living beings as parts of one 
whole sufficiently explains its psychological expression in pity, 
which thus completely corresponds to the clear meaning of the 
universe, is compatible with reason, or is rational. — The erroneous 
conception of pity as of an immediate and complete identification 

of two beings (explanations) . . . . .64 

V. Infinite universal pity described by St. Isaac the Syrian . 68 

VI. Pity as such is not the only foundation of all morality, 
as Schopenhauer mistakenly asserts. — Kindness to living beings 
is compatible with immorality in other respects. — Just as ascetics 
may be hard and cruel, so kind-hearted people may be intemperate 
and dissolute, and, without doing direct and intentional evil, 
injure both themselves and their neighbours by their shameful 
behaviour ........ 69 

VII. The true essence of pity is not simple identification of 
oneself with another, but the recognition of another person's inner 
worth — of his right to existence and to the greatest possible happi- 
ness. — The conception of pity, taken in its universality and inde- 
pendently of subjective mental states connected with it (i.e. taken 
logically and not psychologically), is the conception of truth and of 
justice : it is true that other people are similar to me and have the 
same nature, and it is just that my relation to them should be the 
same as my relation to myself. — Altruism corresponds to truth or 
to that which is, while egoism presupposes untruth or that which 
is not, for in reality an individual self does not possess the exclusive 
and all-important significance which it egoistically assigns to itself. 
— The expansion of personal egoism into the family, national, 
political, and religious egoism is a sign of historical progress of 
morality, but does not disprove the false principle of egoism, which 
contradicts the absolute truth of the altruistic principle . . 71 

VIII. Two rules — of justice (to injure no one) and of mercy (to 
help every one) — that follow from the principle of altruism. — The 
mistaken division and opposition of mercy and of justice, which are 
in truth merely the different aspects or manifestations of one and 
the same moral motive. — The moral principle in the form of justice 
does not demand the material or qualitative equality of all indi- 
vidual and collective subjects. It merely demands that in the 
presence of all the necessary and desirable differences there should 
be preserved something that is unconditional and the same for all. 



namely, the significance of each as an end in himself, and not 
merely as a means for the purposes of others . . -74 


The Religious Principle in Morality. 

I. The peculiarity of the religiously-moral determinations. — 
Their root is in the normal relation of children to parents, based 
upon an inequality which cannot be reduced to justice or deduced 
from pity : a child immediately recognises the superiority of his 
parents to himself and his dependence upon them, feels re'verence for 
them and the necessity of oJ^j/iwg them (explanation) . . 77 

II. The original germ of religion is neither fetishism (proof), 
nor naturalistic mythology (proof), but pietas erga parentes — first in 
relation to the mother and then to the father . . .80 

III. The religious relation of children to parents as to their 
immediate providence becomes more complex and is spiritualised, 
passing into reverence for the departed parents, lifted above ordinary 
surroundings and possessed of mysterious power ; the father in his 
lifetime is only a candidate for a god, and a mediator and priest 
of the real god — of the dead grandparent or ancestor. — The char- 
acter and significance of ancestor-worship (illustrations from the 
beliefs of ancient peoples) . . . . . .82 

IV. Whatever the difference in the religious conceptions and 
manner of worship may be, — from the primitive cult of tribal 
ancestors up to the Christian worship in spirit and in truth of the 
one universal Heavenly Father, — the moral essence of religion 
remains the same. A savage cannibal and a perfect saint, in so far 
as both are religious, are at one in their filial relation to the higher 
and in their resolution to do not their own will but the will of the 
Father. — Such natural religion is the inseparable part of the law 
written in our hearts, and without it a rational fulfilment of other 
demands of morality is impossible . . . . .85 

V. Supposed godlessness or impiety (example). — Cases of real 
impiety, i.e. of not recognising anything superior to oneself, are as 
little proof against the principle as piety and its binding character, 
as the actual existence of shameless and pitiless people is a proof 
against the duties of abstinence and kindness. — Apart from our 
having or not having any positive beliefs, we must, as rational 
beings, admit that the life of the world and our own life has a 
meaning, and that therefore everything depends upon a supreme 
rational principle towards which we must adopt a filial attitude, 
submitting all our actions to ' the will of the Father,' that speaks 

to us through reason and conscience . . . .87 



VI. In the domain of piety, as of all morality, higher demands 
do not cancel the lower, but presuppose and include them (examples). 
— Our real dependence upon the one Father of the universe is not 
immediate, in so far as our existence is determined in the first 
instance by heredity, i.e. by our ancestors, and the environment 
created by them. — Since the Supreme Will has determined our 
existence through our ancestors, we cannot, in bowing down before 
Its action, be indifferent to Its instruments (explanations). — The 
moral duty of reverence to providential men . . .89 



I. Three geneiral aspebts of morality : virtue (in the narrow 
sense — as a good natural quality), norm or the rule of good actions, 
and moral good as the consequence of them. — The indissoluble 
logical connection between these three aspects permits us to re- 
gard the whole content of morality under the first term — as a 
virtue (in the wide sense) . . . . . .92 

II. Virtue as man's right relation to everything. Right 
relation is not an equal relation (explanation). — Since man is 
neither absolutely superior nor absolutely inferior to everything 
else, nor unique of his kind, but is conscious of himself as an 
intermediary being and one of many intermediary beings, it follows 
with logical necessity that the moral norms have a triple character, 
or that there are three fundamental virtues in the proper sense of 
the term. — These are always alike in all, since they express the 
essential moral quality, determined in the right way and giving 
rise to right determinations. — All the other so-called virtues are 
merely qualities of the will and manners of action which have no 
moral determination within themselves and no constant corre- 
lation with the law of duty, and may therefore be sometimes 
virtues, sometimes indifferent states, and sometimes vices (explana- 
tions and examples) ... ■ • 93 

III. Moral valuation depends upon our right attitude to the 
object and not upon the psychological quality of volitional and 
emotional states. — The analysis — from this point of view — of 
the so-called cardinal or philosophical virtues, and especially 
of justice. — It is understood as rectitudo, as aequitas, as justitia, 
and as iegalitas. — In the first sense — of what is rig/tt in general 
— it goes beyond the boundaries of ethics ; in the second, of im- 
partiality, and in the third — of ' injuring no one ' — justice corre- 
sponds to the general principle of altruism (since the rules ' injure 
no one ' and ' help all ' are inseparable) ; in the fourth sense — of 



absolute submission to existing law* — justice is not in itself a virtue, 
but may or may not be according to circumstances (classical 
examples : Socrates, Antigone) . . . . -95 

IV. The so-called ' theological virtues ' have moral vyorth not 
unconditionally and in themselves, but in relation to other facts. — 
Faith is a virtue only on three conditions : (i) that its object is real ; 
(2) that it has vrorth ; (3) that the relation of faith to its real and 
worthy object is a worthy one (explanations). — Such faith coincides 
with true piety. — ^The same is true of hope. — The positive com- 
mandment of love is conditioned by the negative : do not love the 
world, nor all that is in the world (demand for abstinence or the 
principle of asceticism). — Love to God coincides with true piety, 
and love to our neighbours with pity. — Thus love is not a virtue, 
but the culminating expression of all the fundamental demands of 
morality in the three necessary respects : in relation to the higher, 

to the lower, and to the equal . . . . .100 

V. Magnanimity and disinterestedness as modifications of 
ascetic virtue. — Liberality as a special manifestation of altruism. — 
The different moral significance of patience and tolerance, accord- 
ing to the object and the situation . . . . loi 

VI. Truthfulness. — Since speech is the instrument of reason for 
expressing the truth, misuse (in lying and deception) of this formal 
and universally-human means for selfish and material ends is shame- 
ful for the person who lies, insulting and injurious to the persons 
deceived, and contrary to the two fundamental moral demands of 
respect for human dignity in oneself and of justice to others. — 
Consistently with the conception of truth, the reality of a parti- 
cular external fact must not be arbitrarily separated from the 
moral significance of the given situation as a whole. — Difference 
between material falsity and moral falsehood. — Detailed analysis of 
the question as to whether it is permissible to save a man's life by 
verbally deceiving the murderer . . . . 104 

VII. The conception of truth or rightness unites in a supreme 
synthesis the three fundamental demands of morality, in so far as 
one and the same truth demands from its very nature a different 
attitude to our lower nature (the ascetic attitude), to our neighbours 
(the altruistic attitude), and to the supreme principle (the religious 
attitude). — Opposition between the absolute inner necessity or the 
binding nature of truth and its accidental and conditional character 
as a sufficient motive of human actions. — Hence the desire to re- 
place the conception of the moral good or the unconditional duty 

by the conception of happiness or of the unconditionally desirable 1 1 1 




The Spurious Basis of Moral Philosophy {J Critique of 
Abstract Hedonism in its Different Forms'). 

I. In so far as the (moral) good is not desired by a person and 
is not regarded by hira as desirable, it is not a good for him ; in so 
far as it is regarded by him as desirable, but does not determine his 
will, it is not an actual good for him ; in so far as it determines his 
will but does not give him the power to realise in the whole world 
that which ought to be, it is not a sufficient good. — Owing to such 
empirical discrepancy the good is regarded as distinct from the 
right, and is understood as 'welfare (eudaemonia). — The obvious 
advantage that the eudaemonic principle has over the purely moral 
one is that welfare is from the very definition of it desirable for all. 
— The nearest definition of welfare is pleasure, and eudaemonism 
becomes hedonism . ... .114 

II. The weakness of hedonism. — Universality involved in the 
conception of pleasure is formal and logical or abstract only, and 
does not express any definite and actual unity, and therefore supplies 
no general principle or rule of action. — Man may find real pleasure 
in things which he knows lead to destruction, i.e. in things which 
are most undesirable. — Transition from pure hedonism to extreme 
pessimism (Hygesias of Cyrenae — ' the advocate of death ') . 116 

III. Analysis of pleasure. — What is really desired (or is an 
object of desire) are certain represented realities and not the 
pleasurable sensations aroused by them (proof). — The desirability 
of certain objects or their significance as a good depends not upon 
the subjective pleasurable states that follow, but upon the known 
or unknown objective relation of these objects to our bodily or 
mental nature. — Pleasure as an attribute of the good. — From this 
point of view the highest welfare consists in possessing such good 
things which in their totality or as a final result give the maximum 
of pleasure and the minimum of pain — the chief practical signifi- 
cance here belongs not to pleasure as such, but to a careful con- 
sideration of the consequences of this or of that line of conduct ; 
frudent hedonism . . . . . . .117 

IV. If the final end is welfare, the whole point is the actual 
attainment and the secure possession of it ; neither the one nor 
the other, however, may be ensured by prudence (proof). — The 
insufficiency of ideal (intellectual and aesthetic) pleasures from the 
hedonistic point of view. — Since pleasures are not abiding quan- 
tities which can be added together, but merely transitory subjective 
states which, when past, cease to be pleasures, the advantage of 
prudent hedonism over reckless enjoyment of life is apparent only 120 



V. Self-sufficient hedonism, whose principle is the inner freedom 
from desires and affections which render man unhappy. — Being 
purely negative, such freedom can only be a condition of obtaining 

a higher good and not that good itself . . . .123 

VI. Utilitarianism affirms as a supreme practical principle 
the service of the common good or of general happiness, which 
coincides with individual happiness rightly understood. — Utili- 
tarianism is mistaken not in its practical demands, in so far as 
they correspond with the demands of altruistic morality, but in its 
desire to base these demands upon egoism, contrary to the testimony 
of experience (self-sacrifice of individual entities to the genus 
among animals and savage races ; 'struggle for the life of 
others') ........ 124 

VII. It is logically erroneous to establish the connection utili- 
tarianism establishes between personal gain and general happiness. 
— General weakness of utilitarianism and all hedonism. — Happi- 
ness remains an indefinite and unrealisable demand, to which the 
moral demand of the good as duty is in every respect superior. 

— ^Transition to Part II. . . ... 126 



The Unity of Moral Principles. 

I. Conscience and shame • ■ . . . 

II. The feeling of shame, primarily and fundamentally con- 
nected with the sexual life, transcends the boundaries of the 
material existence, and, as the expression of formal disapprobation, 
accompanies every violation of the moral la w i n all spheres of activity 136 

III. For an animal entity the infinity of life is given in geni- 
talibus only, and the entity in question feels and acts as a limited, 
passive means or instrument of the generic process in its bad in- 
finity ; and it is here, in this centre of the natural life, that man 
becomes conscious that the infinity of the genus, in which the animal 
finds its supreme destination, is insufficient. — The fact that man is 
chiefly and primarily ashamed of the very essence of the animal 
life, of the fundamental expression of the physical nature, directly 

proves him to be a super-animal and super-natural being. In sexual 

shame man becomes human in the full sense of the term . 1^7 




IV. The eternal life of the genus based upon the eternal death 
of individual entities is shameful and unsatisfactory to man, who 
both wants, and feels it his duty, to possess eternal life, and not 
merely to be its instrument. — The true genius . . .138 

V. The path of animal procreation or of the perpetration of 
death, felt at the beginning to be shameless, proves subsequently 
to be both pitiless and impious : it is pitiless, for it means the ex- 
pulsion or the crowding out of one generation by another, and it 

is impious because the expelled are our fathers . . 140 

VI. Child-bearing as a good and as an evil. — The solution of 
the antinomy : in so far as the evil of child-bearing may be 
abolished by child-bearing itself, it becomes a good (explanation) . 141 

VII. The positive significance of the ecstasy of human love. — 
It points to the hidden lukoleness of the individual and to the way 
of making it manifest. — Uselessness of the ecstasy of love for 
animal procreation ...... 142 

VIII. The essential inner connection between shame and pity. 
Both are a reaction of the hidden ^wholeness of the human being 
against (i) its individual division into sexes ; and (2) a further 
division — resulting from that first one — of humanity into a number 
of conflicting egoistic entities (shame as individual and pity as 
social continence) . . . . . . .143 

IX. The same is true with regard to (3) piety as religious con- 
tinence which opposes man's separation from the absolute centre 

of life ........ 145 

X. The one essence of morality is the luholeness of man rooted 
in his nature as an abiding norm, and realised in the individual 
and historical life as right-doing and struggle with the centrifugal 
and dividing forces. — The norm-preserving element in shame. — 
Modifications of the original (sexual) shame : conscience as 
essentially inter-human shame, and the fear of God as religious 
shame ........ 146 

XI. In so far as the wholeness of the human being (attained 
in three directions) becomes a fact, the good coincides with happi- 
ness. — Since true happiness is conditioned by the moral good, the 
ethics of pure duty cannot be opposed to eudaemonism in general, 
which necessarily enters into it. — Human good fails to give com- 
plete satisfaction and happiness simply because it itself is never 
complete and is never fully realised (explanations) . 150 

XII. To be truly autonomous the good must be perfect, and 
such a good is bound to involve happiness. — If the good and happi- 
ness are wrongly understood, empirical cases of virtue coinciding 
or not coinciding with happiness are of no moral interest 
whatever (instances) . . . . . .152 

XIII. Critical remarks concerning the insufficiency of Kantian 
ethics .... ... 153 



XIV. Kant's religious postulates ill-founded. — Reality of the 
super-human good, proved by the moral growth of humanity . 156 


The Unconditional Principle of Morality. 

I. Morality and the world of fact. — In shame man actually 
separates himself off from material nature; in pity he actually 
manifests his essential connection with and similarity to other 
living beings . . . . . . .160 

II. In religious feeling the Deity is experienced as the actuality 
of the perfect good ( = happiness) unconditionally and entirely 
realised in itself. — The general basis of religion is the living 
experience of the actual presence of the Deity, of the One which 
embraces all (explanation) . . . . . 161 

III. The reality of God is not a deduction from religious ex- 
perience but its immediate content — that which is experienced. — 
Analysis of this content, as of a given relation of man to God, 
from the point of view of (i) the difference between them (' the 
dust of the earth' in us) ; (2) their ideal connection ('the image 
of God ' in us) ; and (3) their real connection ('the likeness of God ' 
in us). — The complete religious relation is logically resolvable into 
three moral categories : (i) impetfection in us ; (2) perfection in 
God; (3) attaining perfection as the ti^ of OUT Mie . .164 

IV. The psychological confirmation : 'joy in the Holy Spirit' 
as the highest expression of religion. — The formally moral aspect 
of the religious relation. — ^The duty ' to be perfect,' its ideal exten- 
sion and practical significance^' become perfect ' . . . 166 

V. Three kinds of perfection : (i) that which unconditionally 
is in God {actus purus) ; (2) that which potentially is in the soul j 
(3) that which actually comes to be in the history of the world. — 
Proof of the rational necessity of the process. A mollusc or a 
sponge cannot express human thought and will, and a biological 
process is necessary for creating a more perfect organism ; in 
like manner the supreme thought and will (the Kingdom 
of God) cannot be revealed among semi-animals, and requires 
the historical process of making the forms of life more 
perfect ........ 168 

VI. The necessity of the universal process which follows from 
the unconditional principle of the good. — ^The world as a system 
of preliminary material conditions for the realisation of the 
kingdom of ends. — The moral freedom of man as the final condition 

of that realisation .... . . 170 



VII. The demands of religious morality : ' have God in you ' 
and ' regard everything in God's way.' — God's relation to evil. — 
The full form of the categorical imperative as the expression of 

the unconditional principle of morality . . . -173 

VIII. The higher degrees of morality do not abolish the lower, 
but when being realised in history presuppose them and are based 
upon them. — Pedagogical aspect of the matter . . . 1 74 

IX. Natural altruism becomes deeper, higher, and wider in 
virtue of the unconditional principle of morality. — The determining 
power of that principle in relation to collective historical institu- 
tions intended for serving the good. — Our highest duty is not to 
serve these institutions uncritically (since they may fail to fulfil their 
destination), but to help them to serve the good or, if they swerve 

from the right course, to point out their true duties . .176 

X. When man's relation to the Deity is raised to the level of 
absolute consciousness, the preserving feeling of continence (shame, 
conscience, fear of God) is finally seen to safeguard not the relative 
but the absolute dignity of man — his ideal perfection which is to 
be realised. — Ascetic morality is now seen to have a positive 
eschatological motive, namely, to re-create our bodily nature and 
make it the destined abode of the Holy Spirit . . .178 


The Reality of the Moral Order. 

I. Since the reality of the spiritual is inseparable from the 
Reality of the material, the process — to be considered by moral 
philosophy — whereby the universe attains perfection, being the 
process of manifestation of God in man, must necessarily be 
the process of manifestation of God in matter. — The series of the 
concrete grades of being most clearly determined and characteristic 
from the point of view of moral purpose realised in the world- 
process — the five ' kingdoms ' : the mineral or inorganic, the 
vegetable, the animal, the naturally human, and the spiritually 
human or the kingdom of God. — Description and definition of 
them. — Their external interrelation : inorganic substances nourish 
the life of plants, animals exist at the expense of the vegetable 
kingdom, men at the expense of animals, and the kingdom of God 
consists of men (explanations). — The general character of the 
ascent : just as a living organism consists of chemical substance 
which has ceased to be mere substance, so natural humanity con- 
sists of animals who have ceased to be mere animals, and the king- 
dom of God consists of men who have ceased to be merely human 




but have entered into a new and higher plan of existence where 
their purely human objects become the means and instruments of 
another, final purpose . . . . . .180 

II. The stone exists ; the plant exists and lives ; the animal, 
in addition to this, is conscious of its life in its concrete states and 
correlations, the natural man, existing, living, and being conscious 
of his actual life, comes, besides, to be gradually aware of its 
general meaning according to ideas ; the sons of God are called 
to realise this meaning in all things to the end (explanation). — The 
development of the human kingdom in the ancient world. — ^The 
real limit — a living man-god (apotheosis of the Caesars). — As in 
the animal kingdom the appearance of the anthropomorphic ape 
anticipates the appearance of the real man, so in natural humanity 

the deified Caesar is the anticipation of the true God-man . 183 

III. The God-man as the first and essential manifestation of 
the kingdom of God.— Reasons for believing in the historical 
existence of Christ (as the God-man) from the point of view of 

the evolution of the world rationally understood . . .186 

IV. Positive unity of the world-process in its three aspects : (i) 
the lower kingdoms form part of the moral order as the necessary 
conditions of its realisation ; (2) each of the lower forms strives 
towards a correspondingly higher form ; (3) each of the higher 
forms physically (and psychologically) includes the lower. — The 
process of gathering the universe together. — The task of the 
natural man and humanity is to gather together the universe in 
idea ; the task of the God-man and the divine humanity is to 
gather the universe together in reality . . . .188 

V. Positive connection between the spiritual and the natural 
man, between grace and natural goodness. — Historical confirmation 

of the essential truth of Christianity . . . . > 1 90 

VI. Christ as the perfect individual. — Reason why He first 
appeared in the middle of history and not at the end of it . 193 

VII. The perfect moral order presupposes the moral freedom 
of each person, and true freedom is acquired by a finite spirit 
through experience only : hence the necessity of historical develop- 
ment after Christ. — The ultimate significance of that development. 
— The actual task morality has before it inevitably brings us into 
the realm of conditions which determine the concrete historical 
existence of society or of the collective man . . .103 





The Individual and Society. 

I. The separation between the individual and society as such 

is nothing but a morbid illusion (explanation) . . .199 

II. Human personality as such, in virtue of the reason and 
will inherent; in it, is capable of realising unlimited possibilities, in 
other words, it is a special form with infinite content. — The 
chimera of self-sufficient personality and the chimera of impersonal 
society. — Society is involved in the very definition of personality as 
a rationally knowing and morally active force, which is only 
possible in social existence (proofs). — Society is the objectively 
realisable content of the rational and moral personality — not its 
external limit, but its essential complement. — -It embodies the 
indivisible wholeness of universal life, partly realised already 
in the past (common tradition), partly realisable in the present 
(social service) and anticipating the perfect realisation in the 
future (the common ideal). — To these abiding moments of the 
individually social life there correspond three main stages in 
the historical development : the tribal (past) j the nationally- 
political (present) ; and the world-wide (future). — A clear distinc- 
tion between these grades and aspects of life actually shows 
itself in history as the successive transformation of one into 
another and not as the exclusive presence of any one of these 
forms ........ 200 

III. Society is the completed or the expanded individual, and 
the individual is the compressed or concentrated society. — The 
historical task of morality lies not in creating a solidarity between 
the individual and society but in rendering this solidarity conscious, 
in transforming it from involuntary into voluntary, so that each 
person should understand, accept, and carry out the common task 

as his own ....... 203 

IV. True morality is a right interaction between the individual 
and his environment. — Man is from the first an individually- 
social being, and the whole history is a process of gradually 
deepening, widening, and raising to a higher level this two-sided, 
individually-social life. Of these two indivisible and correlative 
terms the individual is the movable, the dynamic element, 



while society is the inert, conservative, and static element of 
history. — There can be no opposition of principle between the 
individual and society but only between the different stages of the 
individually-social development ..... zo4 

V. The clan (in the wide sense) as the rudimentary embodi- 
ment of morality as a whole (religious, altruistic, and ascetic), 
or as the realisation of the individual human dignity in the 
narrowest and most fundamental social sphere (explanations and 
proofs) ........ 206 

VI. The moral content of the clan life is eternal, the form of 
the clan is broken up by the historical process. — The general 
course of this breaking up. — Transition from the clan through the 
tribe to the nation and the state. — The profound significance of 

the word ' fatherland ' . . . . . • 207 

VII. When a new and wider social whole (the fatherland) is 
formed, the clan becomes the family (explanation). — The signifi- 
cance of the individual element in the transition from the 

clan to the state ....... 210 

VIII. Every social group has only a relative and conditional 
claim on man. — Social organisation, even of a comparatively high 
type — e.g. the state — has no right at all over the eternal moral 
content which is present even in the relatively lower forms of 
life — in the clan life, for instance (detailed explanation out of 
Sophocles's Antigone) . . . . . .213 


The Chief Moments in the Historical Development of 
THE Individually-Social Consciousness. 

I. Moral progress (on its religious and altruistic side) corre- 
sponds to the social progress (explanatory remarks) 

II. Achievements of civilisation as a condition of progress for 
ascetic morality, which is not the work of individuals taken as 
such, but of man as an individually-social being (historical ex- 
planation and confirmation). — Conditions which render conscious- 
ness of spiritual independence possible 

III. Recognition by the human personality of its purely 
negative or formal infinity without any definite content. — The 
religion of Awakening : " I am above all this ; all this is empty." — 
Buddhist confession of the ' three treasures ' : I believe in Buddha, 
I believe in the doctrine, I believe in the community " — i.e. all is 
illusion with the exception of three things worthy of belief : the 
man who is spiritually awake, the words of awakening, and the 
brotherhood of the awakened. — Buddhism as the first extant 



Stage of human universalism rising above the exclusive nationally- 
political structure of pagan religion and society.-;— The moral 
essence of the Buddhist doctrine : reverence for the first awakened, 
the commandment of will-lessness and of universal benevolence . 227 

IV. Criticism of Buddhism : its inner contradictions . . ,230 

V. Final definition of the Buddhist doctrine as religious and 
moral nihilism (in the strict sense), which denies in principle every 
object and every motive for reverence, pity, and spiritual struggle 233 

VI. Logical transition from Hindu nihilism to Greek idealism. 
—Greeks no less than Hindus felt the emptiness of sensuous 
being : the pessimism of Greek poetry and philosophy. — But from 
sensuous emptiness Greeks passed to the intelligible fulness of the 
Ideas. — Statement of the Ideal theory (historical instances and 
explanations) . . . . , . .236 

VII. The impossibility of consistently contrasting the two 
worlds. — Three relative and analogous wrongs (anomalies) of the 
phenomenal world ; the psychological (the subjection of reason 
to passions), the social (the subjection of the wise man to the mob), 
and the physical (the subjection of the living organic form to the 
inorganic forces of substance in death). — Idealism attempts to 
combat the first two anomalies but is blind and dumb to the 
third. — The whole of our world (not only the mental and the 
political but the physical as well) is in need of salvation, and the 
Saviour is not the Hindu ascetic or the Greek philosopher but the 
Jewish Messiah — not one who rejects life in the name of non-being 
or in the name of abstract Ideas, but one who makes life whole 

and raises it up for eternity ..... 240 

VIII. Comparison between Buddhism, Platonism, and Christi- 
anity : negative universalism, one-sided universalism, and positive, 
complete, or perfect universalism. — The weakness of Platonism 
from the moral point of view. — Preparatory significance of Buddh- 
ism and Platonism ; their fruitlessness when they are taken to 
be doctrines complete in themselves. — Christianity as an absolute 
e'vent, an absolute promise, and an absolute task . . . 244 


Abstract Subjectivism in Morality. 

I. The erroneous view which denies as a matter of principle 
that morality has an objective task or is the work of the collective 
man. — Statement of the question ..... 248 

II. The insufficiency of morality as subjective feeling only. — 
Historical confirmation ...... 250 

III. The insufficiency of morality which addresses its demands 

to individuals only. — Historical confirmation . . . 254 



IV. The demand for organised morality (theoretical explana- 
tion). — The degree of the individual's subordination to society 
must correspond to the degree to which society itself is subordinate 
to the moral good. Apart from its connection with the moral 
good, social environment has no claim whatever upon the individual. 25S 


The Moral Norm of Social Life. 

I. The error of social realism, according to which social in- 
stitutions and interests have a supreme and decisive significance 
in themselves. — Man is not merely a social animal. — The concep- 
tion of a social being is poorer in intension but wider in extension 

than the conception of man. — Description of the social life of ants 261 

II. The unconditional value of the individual for society. — No 
man under any circumstances and for any reason may be regarded 
as merely a means or an instrument — neither for the good of 
another person, nor for the good of a group of persons, nor for the 
so-called ' common good ' (explanations). — Religion, family, and 
property in relation to the unconditional moral norm . . 264 

III. Rights of man wrongly understood as the privilege of the 
one (eastern monarchies) or of the few (classical aristocracies) or 
of the many (democracies). — The three chief anomalies of the 
ancient society — the denial of human dignity to the external 
enemies, to slaves, and to criminals. — Progress of social morality 
in the consciousness of the ancient world. — The absolute affirma- 
tion of human dignity in Christianity . . . 268 

IV. The task of the present is to make all social institutions 
conformable to the unconditional moral norm and to struggle 

with the collective evil ... . 272 


The National Question from the Moral Point of View. 

The collective evil as a threefold immoral relation : between 
different nations, between society and the criminal, between 
different classes of society ...... 276 

I. Nationalism and cosmopoUtanism. — Moral weakness of 
nationalism •••.... 277 

II. The absence of strictly national divisions in the ancient 
world. — Eastern monarchies and western city states did not 
coincide with nations (historical references) . 279 



III. Jews have never been merely a nation. — Christianity is 
not negative cosmopolitanism, but positive super -national and 
all-national universalism. It can as little demand absence of 
nationality as absence of individuality (explanation and his- 
torical instances) . . . . . . .282 

IV. Universalism of new European nations. — Historical survey : 
Italy, Spain, England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Holland, 
Sweden . . . . . . . .286 

V. Deduction from the historical survey : a nation as a parti- 
cular form of existence derives its meaning and its inspiration 
solely from its connection and its harmony with what is universal. 
— Moral weakness of cosmopolitanism. — Positive duty involved in 
the national question : love (in the ethical sense) all other nations 

as your own (explanation) . . . . 295 


The Penal Question from the Moral Point of View. 

Statement of the question ..... 299 

I. To be ethically right the opposition to crime must give 
moral help to both parties. — The duty to defend the injured and 
to bring the injurer to reason. — The two prevalent erroneous 
doctrines deny either the one or the other aspect of the matter . 300 

II. The conception of punishment as retribution. — Its root is in 
the custom of blood vengeance of the patriarchal stage. — The trans- 
formation of this custom into legal justice, and the transference of 

the duty of vengeance from the clan to the State . . ,. 302 

III. The genesis of legal justice is wrongly taken to be its moral 
justification. — Absurd arguments in favour of the savage conception 

of punishment as revenge or retribution .... 306 

IV. Immoral tendency to preserve cruel penalties. — Since the 
absurdity of retribution is universally recognised, cruel penalties 
are justified upon the principle of intimidation. — The essential 
immorality of this principle. — Fatal inconsistency of its .adherents . 310 

V. The chaotic state of modern justice. — The doctrine of non- 
resistance to evil as applied to the penal question. — Detailed 
analysis and criticism of this doctrine . . . .314 

VI. The moral principle admits neither of punishment as 
intimidating retribution, nor of an indifferent relation to crime and 
of allowing to commit crimes unhindered. — It demands real opposi- 
tion to crime as a just means oft active pity, which legally and 
compulsorily limits certain external manifestations of the evil will 
not only for the sake of the safety of the community and of its 
peaceful members, but also in the interest of the criminal himself. — 



Normal justice in dealing with crime must give, or at any rate aim 
at, equal realisation of three rights : of the right of the injured 
person to be protected, of the right of society to be safe, and of 
the right of the injurer to be brought to reason and reformed. — 
Temporary deprivation of liberty as the necessary preliminary con- 
dition for carrying out this task. — The consequences of the crime 
for the criminal must stand in a natural inner connection with his 
actual condition. — The necessity of reforming the penal laws in a 
corresponding way : ' conditional sentences ' as the first step towards 
such reformation . . . . . . .322 

VII. The possibility of reforming the criminal ; the right and 
the duty of society to care about it. — The necessary reform of 
penal institutions ....••• 3^4 


The Economic Question from the Moral Point of View. 

I. The connection of criminality and national hostility with 
the economic conditions. — The simple nature of the economic 
problem. — Theoretically wrong solutions of it on the part of 

the orthodox economists and of the socialists . . .326 

II. Erroneous and immoral isolation of the economic sphere of 
relations as though it were independent of the moral conditions of 
human activity in general. — Free play of chemical processes can 
only take place in a dead and decomposing body, while in the 
living organism these processes are connected together and deter- 
mined by biological purposes. — There is not, and there never has 
been, in human society a stage so low that the material necessity 
for obtaining means of livelihood was not complicated by moral 
considerations (explanations) . . . . .327 

III. In its economic life, too, society must be an organised 
realisation of the good. — The peculiarity and independence of 
the economic sphere lies not in the fact that it has inexorable laws 
of its own, but in the fact that from its very nature it presents a 
special and peculiar field for the application of the one moral law. 
— The ambiguous beginning and the bad end of socialism. — The 

principle of the St. Simonists : the rehabilitation of matter. ^The 

true and important meaning of this principle : matter has a right 
to be spiritualised by man. — This meaning soon gave way to 
another : matter has the right to dominate man. — Gradual degenera- 
tion of socialism into economic materialism, which is inwardly and 
essentially identical with plutocracy (explanation) . -332 

IV. The true solution of the economic question is in man's 
moral relation to material nature (earth), conditioned by his moral 



relation to men and to God. — The commandment of labour : with 
effort to cultivate material nature for oneself and one's own, for all 
humanity, and for the sake of the material nature itself. — The insuf- 
ficiency of the ' natural harmony ' of personal interests. — Criticism 
of Bastiat's doctrine . . . . . -336 

V. The duty of society to recognise and to secure to each the 
right of worthy human existence. — The immorality of certain 
conditions of labour (instances, confirmations, and explanations) . 340 

VI. The main conditions which render human relations in the 
sphere of material labour moral : (i) material wealth must not be 
recognised as the independent purpose of man's economic activity ; 
(2) production must not be at the expense of the human dignity 
of the producers, and not a single one of them must become merely 
a means of production ; (3) man's duties to the earth (material 
nature in general) must be recognised (explanations). — The rights 
of the earth. — Man's triple relation to the material nature: (i) 
subjection to it ; (2) struggle with it and its exploitation ; (3) 
looking after it for one's own and its sake. — Without loving nature 
for its own sake one cannot organise the material life in a moral 
way. — The connection between moral relation to the external nature 

and the relation to one's body ..... 345 

VII. It is insufficient to study the producing and the material 
causes of labour. — Full definition of labour from the moral point 
of view : labour is the interrelation of men in the physical sphere, 
which interrelation must, in accordance with the moral law, 
secure to all and each the necessary means of existing worthily and 
of perfecting all sides of one's being, and is finally destined to trans- 
form and spiritualise material nature . . . .348 

VIII. Analysis of the conception of property. — The relativity 

of its grounds ...... 349 

IX. The right of each to earn sufficient wages and to save. — 
The normal origin of capital. — The right and the duty of society 
to limit the misuse of private property. — The striving of socialism 
for an undesirable extension of this public right and duty. — The 
moral meaning of the handed down or inherited (family) property. 
— The special significance of family inheritance with regard to 
landed property : it is necessary not to limit it, but, as far as 
possible, to secure it to each family. — Objections answered . 354 

X. Exchange and fraud. — Commerce as public service which 
cannot have private gain for its sole or even its main object. — The 
right and duty of society compulsorily to limit abuses in this 
sphere. — Transition to the morally-legal question . . -35^ 




Morality and Legal Justice. 

I. The unconditional moral principle, as a commandment of 
or demand for perfection, contains in its very nature a recognition 
of the relative element in morality, namely, of the real conditions 
necessary for the attainment of perfection. — Comparative predomin- 
ance of this relative element constitutes the legal sphere of relations 
and comparative predominance of the unconditional side — the 
moral sphere in the strict sense . . . . .362 

II. Alleged contradiction between legality and morality 
(examples and explanations) . . . . .364 

III. The different grades of moral and legal consciousness. — 
The unchangeable legal norms or the natural right. — Legal con- 
servatism. — Progress in legality or the steady approximation of the 
legal enactments to the norms of legality conformable to, though 

not identical with, the moral norms .... 365 

IV. The close connection between morality and legal justice, 
vitally important for both sides. — Verbal and etymological con- 
firmation of it ....... 367 

V. Difference between legal and moral justice : (i) the un- 
limited character of the purely moral and the limited character of 
the legal demands — in this respect legal justice is the lowest limit 
or a definite minimum of morality ; (2) legal justice chiefly demands 
an objective realisation of this minimum of good, or the actual aboli- 
tion of a certain amount of evil ; (3) in demanding such realisation 

legal justice admits of co«(/a/H'o« ..... 369 

VI. A general definition : legal justice is a compulsory demand 
for the realisation of a definite minimum of good, or for an order 
which does not allow of certain manifestations of evil. — The moral 
ground for this : interests of morality demand personal freedom 
as a condition of human dignity and moral perfection ; but man 
can exist and consequently be free and strive for perfection in 
society only ; moral interest, therefore, demands that the external 
manifestations of personal liberty should be consistent with the 
conditions of the existence of society, i.e. not with the ideal perfec- 
tion of some, but with the real security of all. — This security is not 
safeguarded by the moral law itself, since for immoral persons it 
does not exist, and is ensured by the compulsory juridical law which 
has force for the latter also ..... 

VII. Positive legal justice as the historically-movable definition 
of the necessary and compulsory balance between the two moral 
interests of personal liberty and of the common good. — The moral 
demand that each should be free to be immoral ; this freedom is 




secured by positive laws (explanations). — The necessary limit to 

the compulsion exercised by aU collective organisations . -374 

VIII. The legal view of crime .... 378 

IX. From the very definition of legal justice it follows that the 
interest of the common good can in each case only limit personal 
liberty, but can never abolish it altogether. — Hence capital punish- 
ment and imprisonment for life is impermissible . . . 379 

X. The three essential characteristics of law (publicity, con- 
creteness, real applicability). — The sanction of the law. — Public 
authority. — The three kinds of authority (legislative, juridical, 
executive). — The supreme authority. — The state as the embodiment 

of legal justice. — Limits to the legal organisation of humanity 380 


The Significance of War. 

I. Three questions are involved in the question of war : the 
generally moral, the historical, and the personally-moral. — The 
answer to the first question is indisputable : war is an anomaly 

or an evil ........ 385 

II. War as a relative evil (explanations). — Transition to the 
question as to the historical meaning of war . . -387 

III. Wars between clans naturally led to treaties and agree- 
ments as guarantees of peace. — The formation of the state. — The 
organisation of war in the state as an important* step towards the 
coming of peace. — ' The world empires ' — their comparative char- 
acteristic—Pa.*' Romana. — Wars in which ancient history abounds 
increased the sphere of peace. — Military progress in the ancient 
world was at the same time a great social and moral progress, since 

it enormously decreased the proportion of lives sacrificed in war . 389 

IV. Christianity has abolished war in principle ; but until this 
principle really enters human consciousness, wars are inevit- 
able, and may, in certain conditions, be the lesser evil, i.e. a 
relative good. — The Middle Ages. — In modern history three general 
facts are important with reference to the question of war : (i) 
Most nations have become independent political wholes or ' perfect 
bodies ' ; (2) international relations of all kinds have been de- 
veloped ; (3) European culture has spread throughout the globe 
(explanations). — The war-world of the future . . . 394 

V. The general historical meaning of all wars is the struggle 
between Europe and Asia — first local and symbolical (the Trojan 
war), finally extending to the whole of the globe. — The end of 
external wars will make clear the great truth that external peace is 



not as such a real good, but becomes a good only in connection 

with the inner (moral) regeneration of humanity . . -399 

VI. The subjectively moral attitude to war. — False identifica- 
tion of war and military service with murder. — War as the conflict 
between collective organisms (states) and their collective organs 
(armies) is not the affair of individual men who passively take part 
in it ; on their part possible taking of life is accidental only. — 
Refusal to perform military service required by the state is of 
necessity a greater moral evil, and is therefore impermissible. — 
Moral duty of the individual to take part in the defence of his 
country. — It is grounded on the unconditional principle of morality 
(explanatory instances). — Unquestionable dangers of militarism 
are not an argument against the necessity of armaments. — BibUcal 
illustration . . . . . . .402 

VII. It is our positive duty not merely to defend or protect 
our fatherland, but also to bring it to greater perfection, which is 
inseparable from the general moral progress of humanity. — To 
approach a good and lasting peace one must act against the evil 
root of war, namely, against hostility and hatred between the parts 
of the divided humanity. — In history war has been the direct means 
of the external and the indirect means of the internal unification 
of humanity ; reason forbids us to throw up this means so long as 
it is necessary, and conscience commands us to strive that it should 
cease to be necessary, and that the natural organisation of humanity, 
divided into hostile parts, should actually become a moral or spiritual 
unity ........ 406 


The Moral Organisation of Humanity as a Whole. 

I. Differences between the natural and the moral human solid- 
arity, which Christianity puts before us as a historical task, de- 
manding that all should freely and consciously strive for perfection 
in the one good. — The true subject of this striving is tke indi'vidual 
man together njuith and inseparably from the collecti've man. — The 
three permanent embodiments of the subject striving for perfection, 
or the three natural groups which actually give completion to the in- 
dividual life : the family, the fatherland, humanity. — Corresponding 
to them in the historical order we have the three stages — the tribal, 
the nationally political, and the spiritually universal ; the latter may 
become actually real only on condition that the first two are spiritual- 
ised. — The concrete elements and forms of life as conditional data 
for the solution of an unconditional problem. — The given natural 
bond between three generations (grandparents, parents, children) 
must be transformed into the unconditionally moral one through the 
spiritualisation of the family religion, of marriage, and education . 409 




II. Homage paid to the forefathers. — Its eternal significance 
recognised even in the savage cults.— Christian modification of the 
ancient cult ....... 

III. Marriage. — It unites man with God through the present, 
just as religious regard for the forefathers unites man with God 
through the past. — In true marriage the natural sexual tie is not 
abolished but transubstantiated. — The necessary data for the moral 
problem of such transubstantiation are the natural elements of the 
sexual relation : (i) carnal desire ; (2) being in love ; (3) child- 
bearing. — Marriage remains the satisfaction of the sexual desire, 
but the object of that desire is no longer the satisfaction of the 
animal organism, but the restoration of the image of God in man. — 
Marriage as a form of asceticism, as holy exploit and martyrdom. 
— Child - bearing, unnecessary and impossible in a perfect 
marriage, is necessary and desirable in a marriage which strives 
after perfection ; it is a necessary consequence of the perfection not 

yet attained, and a natural means of attaining it in the future . 415 

IV. The purpose of the bringing up of children in a spiritually 
organised family is to connect the temporary life of the new genera- 
tion with the eternal good, which is common to all generations, 

and restores their essential unity . . . . 418 

V. True education must at one and the same time be both 
traditional sxiA progressive. — Transferring to the new generation all 
the spiritual heritage of the past, it must at the same time develop 
in it the desire and the power to make use of this heritage as of a 
living moving power for a new approach to the supreme goal. — 
Fatal consequences of separating the two aspects. — The moral basis 
of education is to inspire the descendants with a living concern for 
the future of their ancestors (explanation). — Moral progress can only 
consist in carrying out further and better the duties which follow 
from tradition. — The supreme principle of pedagogy is the indis- 
soluble bond between generations which support one another in 
carrying out progressively the one common task of preparing for the 
manifestation of the kingdom of God and for universal resurrection 421 

VI. The normal family is the immediate restoration of the 
moral wholeness of man in one essential respect — that of succession 
of generations (the order of temporal sequence). — This wholeness 
must be also restored in the wider order of coexistence — first of all 
within the limits of the nation or the fatherland. — In accordance 
with the nature of moral organisation, the nation does not 
abolish either the family or the individual, but fills them with a 
vital content in a definite national form, conditioned by language. 
— This form must be peculiar but not exclusive : the normal 
multiplicity of different languages does not necessitate their 
isolation and separateness. — The Babylonian principle of the 
division of humanity through identity in confusion and the Sion 



principle of gathering mankind together through unanimity in 
distinctness. — The true universal language means the community 
and understandability of many separate languages which, though 
divided, do not divide ...... 423 

VII. The unity of mankind. — All the grounds which justify 
us in speaking of the unity of a people have still greater force when 
applied to humanity. — ^The unity of origin ; the unity of language, 
irrespective of the number of different tongues ; the unity of 
universal history apart from which there can be no national history 
(proofs and explanations). — The indivisibility of the moral good. 
— The evil of exclusive patriotism. — Humanity as the subject of 
moral organisation. — Transition to the discussion of the universal 
forms of the moral order . . . . . .426 

VIII. The universal Church as the organisation of piety 
(explanation). — The essence of the Church is the unity and holiness 
of the Godhead in so far as it remains and positively acts in the 
world through humanity (or, what is the same thing, the Church 
is the creation gathered together in God). — The unity and holiness 
of the Church in the order of coexistence is its catholicity or whole- 
ness and, in the order of succession,. is the apostolic succession. — 
Catholicity abolishes all divisions and separations, preserving all 

the distinctions and peculiarities .... 432 

IX. Participation in the absolute content of life through the 
universal Church positively liberates and equalises all, and unites 
men in a perfect brotherhood which presupposes a perfect father- 
hood ...... 

X. The religious principle of fatherhood is that the spiritual 
life does not spring^ow oursel'ves. — Hence messengership or apostle- 
ship in contradistinction to imposture. — Christ ' sent of God ' and 
doing the will of the Father who sent Him and not His own will 
is the absolute prototype of apostleship. — Its continuation in the 
Church : " As my Father sent me, so I send you." — Since filial 
relation is the prototype of piety, the only-begotten Son of God 
— the Son by pre-eminence — being the embodiment of piety is the 
way, the truth, and the life of His Church, as of an organisation 
of piety in the world. — The way of piety is the way of hierarchy 
— it is from above (the significance of ordination and consecration). 
— The truth of the Church is not, at bottom, either scientific, or 
philosophical, or even theological, but simply contains the dogmas 
of piety i the general meaning of the seven CEcumenical Councils. 
— The life of piety ; the meaning of the seven sacraments 

XI. The question as to the relation of the Church to the state 
or the problem of the Christian state. — Important instance in the 

New Testament (the story of Cornelius the centurion) . . 440 

XII. Moral necessity of the state.— Explanations with regard 

to Christianity ......_ ... 





XIII. The state as collectively -organised pity. — Vladimir 
Monomakh and Dante (explanation) .... 447 

XIV. Analysis of the objection generally urged against the 
definition of the normal state ..... 449 

XV. Analysis of legal misunderstandings . . 451 

XVI. In addition to the general conservative task of every 
state — to preserve the essentials of common life, without which 
humanity could not exist — the Christian state has also a progressive 
task of improving the conditions of that life by furthering the free 
development of all human powers destined to bring about the 
coming of the kingdom of God (explanation) . . ■ 45<i 

XVII. The normal relation between the Church and the state. 
— From the Christian (the divinely-human) point of view both the 
independent activity of man and his whole-hearted devotion to 
God are equally necessary ; but the two can only be combined if 
the two spheres of life (the religious and the political) and its two 
immediate motives (piety and pity) are clearly distinguished — 
corresponding to the difference in the immediate objects of action, 
the final purpose being one and the same. — Fatal consequences 
of the separation of the Church from the state and of either 
usurping the functions of the other. — The Christian rule of social 
progress consists in this, that the state should as little as possible 
coerce the inner moral life of man, leaving it to the free spiritual 
activity of the Church, and at the same time secure as certainly 
and as widely as possible the external conditions in which men can 

live worthily and become more perfect .... 457 

XVIII. The special moral task of the economic life is to be 
the collectively-organised abstinence from the evil carnal passions, 
in order that the material nature — individual and universal — 
could be transformed into a free form of the human spirit. — The 
separation of the economic life from its object at the present time 

and historical explanation of that fact .... 460 

XIX. Moral significance of the law of conservation of energy. 
— The value of the collectively-organised abstinence depends upon 
the success of the collective organisations of piety and pity. — The 
unity of the three tasks ..... 465 

XX. Individual representatives of the moral organisation of 
humanity. — The three supreme callings — that of the priest, the 
king, and the prophet. — Their distinctive peculiarities and mutual 
dependence ....... 467 


The Final Definition of the Moral Significance of Life and 

THE Transition to Theoretical Philosophy • . 470 



The subject-matter of moral philosophy is the idea of the good ; 
the purpose of this philosophical inquiry is to make clear the 
content that reason, under the influence of experience, puts into 
this idea, and thus to give a definite answer to the essential 
question as to what ought to be the object or the meaning of 
our Hfe. 

The capacity of forming rudimentary judgments of value is 
undoubtedly present in the higher animals, who, in addition to 
pleasant and unpleasant sensations^ possess more or less complete 
ideas of desirable or undesirable objects. Man passes beyond 
single sensations and particular images and rises to a universal 
rational concept or idea of good and evil. 

The universal character of this idea is often denied, but this 
is due to a misunderstanding. It is true that every conceivable 
kind of iniquity has at some time and in some place been 
regarded as a good. But at the same time there does not exist, 
nor ever has existed, a people which did not attribute to its idea 
of the good (whatever that idea might be) the character of being 
a universal and abiding norm and ideal.^ A Red Indian who 
considers it a virtue to scalp as many human heads as possible, 
takes it to be good and meritorious, not for one day merely but 

' In these preliminary remarks, which are merely introductory, I intentionally take 
the idea of the good in its original complexity, i.e. not merely in the sense of the moral 
worth of our actions, but also in the sense of objects which are generally regarded as 
desirable to possess or to enjoy (" all one's" goods," etc.). Some doctrines deny that 
there is any such distinction, and I cannot presuppose it before the matter has been 
subjected to a philosophical analysis. 

I B 


for all his life, and not for himself alone, but for every decent 
man. An Esquimo whose idea of the highest good is the 
greatest possible supply of putrid seal and cod-fish fat, undoubtedly 
regards his ideal as of universal application ; he is convinced that 
what is good for him is also good for all times and all people, 
and even for the world beyond the grave ; and if he be told of 
barbarians to whom putrid fat is disgusting, he will either dis- 
believe that they exist or will deny that they are normal. In 
the same way, the famous Hottentot who maintained that it is 
good when he steals a number of cows .and bad when they are 
stoltn from him, did not intend this ethical principle for himself 
only, but meant that for every man the good consisted in 
successful appropriation of other people's property, and evil in 
the loss of one's own. 

Thus even this extremely imperfect application of the idea 
of the good undoubtedly involves its formal universality, i.e. its 
affirmation as a norm for all time and for all human beings, 
although the content of the supposed norm [i.e. the particular 
answers to the question, What is good ?) does not in any way 
correspond to this formal demand, being merely accidental, 
particular, and crudely material in character. Of course the 
moral ideas even of the lowest savage are not limited to scalped 
heads and stolen cows : the same Iroquois and Hottentots manifest 
a certain degree of modesty in sexual relations, feel pity for those 
dear to them, are capable of admiring other people's superiority. 
But as long as these rudimentary manifestations of true morality 
are found side by side with savage and inhuman demands, or even 
give precedence to the latter, as long as ferocity is prized above 
modesty, and rapacity above compassion, it has to be admitted that 
the idea of the good, though preserving its universal form, is 
devoid of its true content. 

The activity of reason which gives rise to ideas is inherent in 
man from the first, just as an organic function is inherent in 
the organism. It cannot be denied that alimentary organs and 
their functions are innate in the animal j but no one takes this 
to mean that the animal is born with the food already in its 
mouth. In the same way, man is not born with ready-made 
ideas, but only with a ready-made faculty of being conscious 
of ideas. 


The rational consciousness in virtue of which man possesses 
from the first a universal idea of the good as an absolute norm, 
in its further development gradually supplies this formal idea with 
a content worthy of it. It seeks to establish such moral demands 
and ideals as would in their very essence be universal and 
necessary, expressing the inner development of the universal 
idea of the good and not merely its external application to 
particular material motives foreign to it. When this work of 
human consciousness developing a true content of morality, attains 
a certain degree of clearness and distinctness, and is carried on 
in a systematic way, it becomes moral philosophy or ethics. The 
different ethical systems and theories exhibit various degrees of 
completeness and self-consistency. 


In its essence moral philosophy is most intimately connected 
with religion, and in its relation to knowledge with the theoretical 
philosophy. It cannot at this stage be explained what the 
nature of the connection is, but it is both possible and necessary to 
explain what it is not. It must not be conceived of as a one- 
sided dependence of ethics on positive religion or on speculative 
philosophy — a dependence which would deprive the moral sphere 
of its special content and independent significance. The view 
which wholly subordinates morality and moral philosophy to the 
theoretical principles of positive religion or philosophy is extremely 
prevalent in one form or another. The erroneousness of it is 
all the more clear to me because I myself at one time came 
very near it, if indeed I did not share it altogether. Here are 
some of the considerations which led me to abandon this point of 
view ; I give only such as can be understood before entering 
upon an exposition of moral philosophy itself. 

The opponents of independent morality urge that " only true 
religion can give man the strength to realise the good ; but the 
whole value of the good is in its realisation ; therefore apart from 
true religion ethics has no significance." That true religion 
does give its true followers the strength to realise the good, 
cannot be doubted. But the one-sided assertion that such 
strength is given by religion alone, though it is supposed to be 


made in the higher interests of religion, in truth, directly 
contradicts the teaching of the great defender of faith, St. Paul, 
who admits, it will be remembered, that the heathen can do good 
according to the natural law, "For when the Gentiles," he 
writes, "which have not the law, do by nature the things 
contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto 
themselves : which show the work of the law written in their 
hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts 
the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." ^ 

In order to receive the power for realising the good, it is 
necessary to have a conception of the good — otherwise its realisations 
will be merely mechanical. And it is not true that the whole 
value of good is in the fact of its realisation : the way in which 
it is realised is also important. An unconscious automatic 
accomplishment of good actions is below the dignity of man 
and consequently does not express the human good. The 
human realisation of the good is necessarily conditioned by a 
consciousness of it, and there can be consciousness of the good apart 
from true religion as is shown both by history and by everyday 
experience, and confirmed by the testimony of so great a 
champion of the faith as St. Paul.'^ 

Further, though piety requires us to admit that the power 
for the realisation of the good is given from God, it would be 
impious to limit the Deity with regard to the means whereby 
this power can be, communicated. According to the witness 
both of experience and of the Scriptures, such means are not 
limited to positive religion, for even apart from it som^ men are 
conscious of the good, and practise it. So that from the religious 
point of view also, we must simply accept this as true, and 
consequently admit that in a certain sense morality is independent 
of the positive religion and moral philosophy of a creed.^ 

' "Oroi' 74p tBvTi ri, ni] vbiiov ^okto <j>^(rei rh toB v6iiov TTotJ, oBtoi oi/toi' fi.\) 
iXoVTCi iavTois el<ri vbiwi' otnves ivSelKvvvrai ri (pyov toB vbiiov ypaizrhv iv rah 
KopSlais airwv, cvniiaprvpoimis airrHv t^s awetSijaeus koI /ierdid <iXXiJ\(i)i< tui' 
\oyi(Tfmv KaTTiyopoivTOiv ij Kal iwoKvyoviUviav. — Rom, ii. 14-15, 

^ What St. Paul says of the Gentiles of his time is no doubt applicable to men 
who in the Christian era were unable to accept Christianity either because they had 
not heard of it or because it had been misrepresented to them. And when they do 
good they do it according to the natural law " written in their hearts," 

' Of course, what is here denied is dependence in the strict sense, i.e. such a 
relation between two objects that one of them is entirely presupposed by the other and 


A third consideration leads to the same conclusion. However 
great our certainty of the truth of our own religion may be, 
it does not warrant our overlooking the fact that there exists a 
number of religions, and that each of them claims for itself to be 
the only true one. And this fact creates in every mind that is 
not indifferent to truth a desire for an objective justification of 
our own faith — for such proof in favour of it, that is, as would be 
convincing not only to us but also to others, and, finally, to all. 
But all the arguments in favour of religious truth which are 
universally applicable amount to a single fundamental one — the 
ethical argument, which affirms that our faith is morally 
superior to others. This is the case even when the moral 
interest is completely concealed by other motives. Thus in 
support of one's religion one may point to the beauty of its 
church services. This argument must not be dismissed too 
lightly. Had not the beauty of the Greek service in the 
cathedral of St. Sophia impressed the envoys of prince Vladimir 
of Kiev as much as it did, Russia would probably not have 
been Orthodox now. But whatever the importance of this 
side of religion may be, the question is in what precisely does 
the aesthetic value of one service as compared with another 
consist ? It certainly does not lie in the fact that its form and 
setting should be distinguished by any kind of beauty. Beauty 
of form as such {i.e. the perfection of the sensuous expression of 
anything) may attach to the most diverse objects. A ballet, an 
opera, a military or an erotic picture, a firework, may all be 
said to have a beauty of their own. But the introduction of 
such manifestations of the beautiful, in however small a degree, 
into a religious cult, is rightly censured as incompatible with its 
true dignity. The aesthetic value of a religious service does not 
then lie merely in the perfection of its sens,uous form, but in its 
expressing as clearly and as fully as possible the spiritual contents 

cannot exist apart from it. All 1 maintain so far is that ethics is not |n this sense 
dependent upon positive religion, without at all prejudging the question as to the 
actual connection between them or their mutual dependence in concreto. As to the 
so-called natural or rational religion, the very conception of it has arisen on the 
ground of moral philosophy and, as will be shown in its due course, has no meaning 
apart from it. At present I am only concerned with the view which has, of late, 
become rather prevalent, that the moral life is wholly determined by the dogmas and 
institutions of a positive religion and must be entirely subordinate to them. 


of true religion. These contents are largely dogmatic, but chiefly 
ethical (in the wide sense) — the holiness of God, His love for 
men, the gratitude and the devotion of men to their Heavenly 
Father, their brotherhood with one another. This ideal essence, 
.embodied in the persons and events of sacred, history, finds, through 
this sacred historical prism, new artistic incarnation in the rites, 
the symbols, and the anthems of the Church. The spiritual 
essence of religion appeals to some men only as thus embodied in 
the cult, while other men (whose number increases as conscious- 
ness develops) are able, in addition, to apprehend it directly as a 
doctrine ; and in this case again the moral side of religious 
beauty clearly predominates over the dogmatic side. The meta- 
physical dogmas of true Christianity, in spite of all their inward 
certainty, are undoubtedly above the level of ordinary human 
reason, and therefore have never been, nor ever can be, the 
original means of convincing non-Christians of the truth of our 
religion. In order to realise the truth of these dogmas by faith, 
one must already be a Christian ; and in order to realise their 
meaning in the sphere of abstract thought, one must be a philo- 
sopher of the school of Plato or of Schelling. And as this cannot 
be possible for every one, all that remains for persuading people 
belonging to other religions of the truth of our faith is its moral 
superiority .1 And indeed, in the disputes between the different 
branches of one and the same religion, as well as between 
different religions, each side seeks to justify its own faith by 
means of moral and practical arguments. Thus Roman 
Catholics most readily quote in their own favour the solidarity 
and the energetic work of their clergy, united by the religious 
and moral power of the papal monarchy, the unique moral 
influence of their clergy on the masses of the people, the part the 
Pope plays as the defender of universal justice and the supreme 
judge and peacemaker ; and they especially point to the multitude 
of works of charity in their missions at home and abroad. 
Protestants, who originally separated off from the Roman Church 
precisely on the ground of moral theology, claim in their turn as 
their essential advantage the moral loftiness and purity of their 

' One of my critics — heaven judge him ! — took me to mean that that religion is 
true to which the greatest number of good people belong. I wish he had suggested 
some method for such moral statistics j 


doctrine which liberates the individual conscience and the life of 
the community from many practical abuses and from slavery to 
external observances and to traditions, in their view, senseless. 
Finally, the champions of Orthodoxy in their polemic against 
Western Christianity generally have recourse to moral accusa- 
tions. They accuse the Roman Catholics of pride and love of 
power, of striving to appropriate for the head of their Church that 
which belongs to God as well as that which belongs to Caesar ; 
they accuse the Roman Catholic clergy of fanaticism, of loving the 
world and of cupidity, make it responsible for the sin of persecut- 
ing heretics and inhdels. Like the Protestants they lay stress 
on three main charges — the Inquisition, Indulgences, and Jesuit 
morality ; and finally, independently of the Protestants, they 
bring against the Roman Catholics the charge of moral fratricide 
which found expression in the arbitrary adoption by the latter 
(without the knowledge of the Eastern Church) of the local Western 
traditions. The moral charges they bring against Protestantism 
are less striking but just as serious. They accuse it of in- 
dividualism which does away with the Church as a concrete moral 
whole, they reproach it with destroying the bond of love not 
only between the present and the past of the historical Church 
(by rejecting the traditions), but also between the visible and the 
invisible Church (by rejecting prayers for the dead, etc.). 

Without going into theology or pronouncing on the value of 
or the need for such disputes^ I would only draw attention to 
the fact that neither of the disputants rejects the moral principles 
proclaimed by the other side, but simply tries to turn them to his 
own account. Thus when the Roman Catholics boast of works 
of charity which especially characterise their Church, neither 
their Protestant nor their Greco-Russian opponents would say 
that charity is a bad thing ; they would merely argue that the 
Roman Catholic charitable institutions serve the purposes of 
ambition, and, being thus vitiated by extraneous elements, more 
or less lose their moral worth. In answer to this, the Roman 
Catholics, for their part, would not say that ambition is a good 
thing or that Christian charity must be subordinate to worldly 

' Concerning the reproach in ' moral fratricide ' see my article in Dogmatitcheskoe 
Razmtie Tserkvi {The Dogmatic Development of the Church) in the Fra-voslavrioe Oboxrenie 
for 1885. 


considerations, but would, on the contrary, repudiate the charge of 
ambition and argue that power is not for them an end in itself, 
but only a necessary means for carrying out their moral duty. 
Similarly when the Orthodox — as well as the Roman Catholics — 
reproach the Protestants with their lack of filial piety and their 
contempt for the Patristic tradition, no sensible Protestant would 
urge that tradition ought to be despised, but would, on the 
contrary, try to prove that Protestantism is a return to the 
most honourable and ancient traditions of Christianity, freed 
from any false and pernicious admixture. 

It is clear, then, that the disputing parties stand on one and the 
same moral ground (which alone renders dispute possible), that 
they have the same moral principles and standards, and that the 
dispute is merely about their application. These principles do 
not as such belong to any denomination, but form a general 
tribunal to which all equally appeal. The representative of each 
side says in fact to his opponent simply this : " I practise better 
than you the moral principles which you, too, wish to follow ; 
therefore you must give up your error and acknowledge that I am 
right." The ethical standards, equally presupposed by all denomi- 
nations, cannot themselves, then, depend upon denominational 

But morality proves to be just as independent of the more 
important religious differences. When a missionary persuades a 
Mahomedan or a heathen of the moral superiority of the Christian 
teaching he evidently presupposes that his listener has the same 
moral standards as his own, at least, in a potential form. 

This means that the norms which are common both to the 
Christian and to the heathen, and are ' written ' in the latter's 
heart, are altogether independent of positive religion. Besides, in 
so far as all positive religions, including the absolutely true one, 
appeal in the disputes to the universal moral norms, they admit 
that in a certain sense they are dependent upon the latter. Thus 
during a judicial trial both the right and the wrong party are 
equally subordinate to the law ; and inasmuch as they have 
both appealed to it, they have acquiesced in such subordination. 



Moral philosophy has then a subject-matter of its own (the 
moral norms) independent of particular religions, and even in a 
sense presupposed by them ; thus on its objective or real side it is 
self-contained. The question must now be asked whether on its 
formal side — as a science — moral philosophy is subordinate to 
theoretical philosophy, especially to that part of it which examines 
the claims and the limitations of our cognitive faculty. But in 
working out a moral philosophy, reason simply unfolds, on the 
ground of experience, the implications of the idea of the good (or, 
what is the same thing, of the ultimate fact of moral consciousness) 
which is inherent in it from the first. In doing this, reason does 
not go beyond its own boundaries ; in scholastic language its use 
here is immanent^ and is therefore independent of this "or of that 
solution of the question as to the transcendent knovAeAge of things 
in themselves. To put it more simply, in moral philosophy we are 
concerned with our inward relation to our own activities, i.e. with 
something that can unquestionably be known by us, for it has its 
source in ourselves. The debatable question as to whether we can 
know that which belongs to other realms of being, independent 
of us, is not here touched upon. The ideal content of morahty is 
apprehended by reason which has itself created it ; in this case, 
therefore, knowledge coincides with its object (is adequate to it) 
and leaves no room for critical doubt. The progress and the 
results of this process of thought answer for themselves, pre- 
supposing nothing but the general logical and psychological 
conditions of all mental activity. Ethics makes no claim to a 
theoretical knowledge of any metaphysical essences and takes no 
part in the dispute between the dogmatic and the critical philo- 
sophy, the first of which affirms, and the second denies, the 
reality, and consequently the possibility, of such knowledge. 

In spite of this formal and general independence of ethics of 
the theoretical philosophy, there are two metaphysical questions 
which may apparently prove fatal to the very existence of 

The first question is this. The starting point of every serious 
speculation is the doubt as to the objective validity of our know- 


ledge : Do things exist as they are known to us ? The doubt 
about our knowledge gradually leads us to doubt the very existence 
of that which is known, i.e. of the world and all that is in it. 
This world is made up of our sense perceptions which the 
understanding unites into one coherent whole. But is not the 
perceived merely our sensation and the connectedness of things 
merely our thought ? And if this be so, if the world as a whole 
be only my presentation, then all the beings to whom I stand in 
the moral relation prove also to be nothing but my presentations, 
for they are inseparable parts of the presented world, given in 
knowledge like everything else. Now moral rules, or at least a 
considerable number of them, determine my right relation to 
other people. If other people do not exist, do not these moral 
rules themselves become objectless and unrealisable ? This 
would be the case if the non-existence of other human beings 
could be known with the same indubitable certainty which 
attaches to . moral precepts in their sphere. If while my con- 
science definitely compelled me to act morally in relation to 
certain objects, theoretical reason proved with equal definiteness 
that these objects did not exist at all, and that therefore rules 
of action relating to them were meaningless — if practical 
certainty were thus undermined by equal theoretical certainty, 
and the categoric character of the precept were negated by the 
indubitable knowledge of the impossibility of carrying it out — 
then indeed the position would be hopeless. But in truth there 
is no such conflict between two equal certainties, and there 
cannot be. Doubt as to the independent existence of external 
things is not, and can never become, certainty of their non-exist- 
ence. Suppose it were proved that our senses and our under- 
standing are untrustworthy witnesses as to the existence of other 
beings, the untrustworthiness of the witnesses merely makes their 
testimony doubtful, but does not make the opposite true. Even if 
it were positively proved that a given witness had felsely testified 
to a fact which in reality he had not witnessed at all, it would be 
impossible to conclude from this that the fact itself never existed. 
Other witnesses might vouch for it, or indeed it might not have 
been witnessed by any one and yet be a fact. Our senses and our 
intellect tell us of the existence of human beings other than our- 
selves. Suppose that investigation were to show that this is false, 


and that these means of knowledge warrant the existence of objects 
as our presentations only and not their existence as independent 
realities — which we consequently begin to doubt. But to go 
further and replace our former certitude of the existence of other 
beings by the certitude of the opposite and not merely by doubt 
would only be possible on the supposition that whatever is not 
actually contained in our senses and our thought cannot exist at 
all. This, however, is quite an arbitrary assumption, for which 
there is neither logical ground nor any reasonable foundation. 

If we cannot in relation to the existence of other selves go 
further than doubt, we may rest satisfied about the fate of 
moral principles ; for theoretical doubt is evidently insufficient to 
undermine moral and practical certainty. It must also be 
remembered that critical doubt is not the final point of view ot 
philosophy, but is always overcome in one way or another. Thus 
Kant draws the distinction between phenomena and noumena 
(appearances and things in tfiemselves), restoring to the objects of 
moral duty as noumena the full measure of independent existence 
which as phenomena they do not possess. Other thinkers dis- 
cover new and more trustworthy witnesses of the existence of the 
external world than sense and thought (Jacobi's immediate faith^ 
Schopenhauer's Will which is experienced as the root of our own 
reality, and, by analogy, of that of other beings), or they work out 
a system of a new and more profound speculative dogmatism 
which re-establishes the objective significance of all that is. 
(Schelling, Hegel, and others.) 

But however great the force and the significance of the critical 
doubt as to the existence of other beings may be, it has bearing 
merely on one aspect of morality. Every ethical precept as such 
touches upon the object of the action (other men) only with its outer 
end, so to speak ; the real root of it is always within the agent 
and cannot therefore be affected by any theory — whether positive 
or negative — of the external world. And the external aspect ot 
the moral law which links it to the object belongs, properly 
speaking, to the sphere of legal justice and not of morality in 
the narrow sense. As will be shown in due course legal justice 
depends upon morality and cannot be separated from it, but this 
does not prevent us from clearly distinguishing the two spheres. 
When one and the same action, e.g. murder, is condemned 


equally by a criminologist and by a moralist, they both refer to 
one and the same totality of psychological moments resulting 
in the material fact of taking life, and the conclusions are 
identical, but the starting point and the whole train of reasoning 
is entirely different and opposed in the two cases. From the 
legal point of view, what is of primary significance is the 
objective fact of murder — an action which violates another 
person's rights and characterises the culprit as an abnormal 
member of society. To make that characteristic full and 
complete, the inner psychological moments must also be taken 
into account, first and foremost among them being the presence 
of criminal intention, the so-called animus of the crime. But the 
subjective conditions of the action are of interest solely in their 
relation to the fact of murder, or in causal connection with it. 
If a man breathed vindictiveness and murder all his life, but his 
subjective mental state found no expression in actual murder nor 
attempt at one, nor in any violence, that person in spite of all 
his diabolical malice would not come within the range of the 
criminologist as such. On the contrary, from the moral point 
of view, the slightest emotion of malice or anger, even though it 
never expressed itself in action or speech, is in itself a direct 
object of ethical judgment and condemnation ; and the feet of 
murder from this point of view has significance not on its 
material side, but simply as an expression of the extreme degree 
of the evil feeling which throughout all its stages is deserving of 
moral condemnation. For a criminologist murder is an infringe- 
ment of right or a loss unlawfully inflicted upon the victim and 
upon the social order. But from the purely moral point of view, 
being deprived of life is not necessarily a loss, and may even be a gain 
for the victim ; murder is an unquestionable loss for the murderer 
alone, not as a fact, but as the culminating point of the malice 
which is in itself a loss to a man in so far as it lowers his dignity 
as a rational being. Of course, from the ethical point of view, 
too, murder is worse than a mere outburst of anger. But this 
is simply because the former involves a greater degree of the 
same evil passion than the latter, and it is certainly not because 
one is a harmful action and the other merely a feeling. Ifcwith the 
firm intention of causing death to his enemy a man stabs a wax 
effigy, he is from the moral point of view a full-fledged murderer. 


though he has killed no one and interfered with no one's 
rights ; but for this very reason, from the legal point of view 
his action is not even remotely akin to murder, and is at most 
an insignificant damage to another person's property. 

Extreme idealism which recognises the subject's inner states 
as alone real does not deny that there exist qualitative differences 
between these states, expressing a greater or lesser degree of 
activity in the self. Therefore from this point of view also our 
actions, in spite of the illusory character of their object, preserve 
their full moral significance as indicative of our spiritual 
condition. Thus the feeling of anger or malice, e.g.^ indicates 
like every other passion the passivity of the spirit or its inward 
subordination to the illusory appearances, and is in that sense 
immoral. It is clear that the degree of immorality is directly 
proportionate to the strength of the passion or to the degree of 
our passivity. The stronger the passion, the greater passivity 
of the spirit does it indicate. Therefore a passion of anger 
leading to premeditated murder is more immoral than a passing 
irritability, quite apart from the theoretical question as to the 
illusory character of external objects. Even from the point of 
view of subjective idealism, then, bad actions are worse than bad 
emotions which do not lead to actions. 

The conclusion" that follows from this is clear. If the 
universe were merely my dream, this would be fatal only to the 
objective, the external side of ethics (in the broad sense), and not 
to its own inner sphere ; it would destroy my interest in 
jurisprudence, politics, in social questions, in philanthropy, but it 
would not affect the individually moral interests or the duties 
to myself. I should cease to care about safeguarding the rights 
of others, but would still preserve my own inner dignity. Not 
feeling any tender compassion for the phantoms surrounding me, 
I should be all the more bound to refrain from evil or shameful 
passions in relation to them. If it he opposed to moral dignity 
to bear malice against a living human being, it is all the more 
so against a mere phantom ; if it be shameful to fear that which 
exists, it is still more shameful to fear that which does not exist ; 
if it be shameful and contrary to reason to strive for the material 
possession of real objects, it is no less shameful and far more 
irrational to entertain such a desire with regard to phantoms of 


one's own imagination. Quite apart from the theory that all 
that exists is a dream, when in the ordinary way we dream of 
doing something immoral we feel ashamed of it even after 
awakening. Of course if I dream that I have killed some one, on 
waking I am not so much ashamed of my action as pleased at 
its having been only a dream ; but of the vindictive feeling 
experienced in the dream I am ashamed even when awake. 

In view of all these considerations, the following general 
conclusion seems inevitable. Theoretical philosophy (namely, the 
critique of knowledge) may engender doubt as to the existence 
of the objects of morality, but it certainly cannot ■ create a 
conviction of their non-existence. The doubt (which, however, 
is disposed of, in one way or another, by the theoretical 
philosophy itself) cannot outweigh the certainty which attaches 
to the deliverances of conscience. But even if it were possible 
to be certain of the non-existence of other beings (as objects of 
moral activity), this would only affect the objective side of ethics, 
leaving its own essential sphere altogether untouched. This 
conclusion sufficiently safeguards the independence of moral 
philosophy with regard to the first point raised by the critique 
of knowledge. The second difficulty arises in connection with 
the metaphysical question of the freedom of will. 


It is often maintained that the fate of moral consciousness 
depends upon this or that view of the freedom of will. It is 
urged that either our actions are free or they are determined, and 
then it is affirmed that the second alternative, namely, deter- 
minism, or the theory that all our actions and states happen with 
necessity, makes human morality impossible and thus deprives 
moral philosophy of all meaning. If, they say, man is merely 
a wheel in the world machine, it is impossible to speak of 
moral conduct. But the whole force of the argument depends 
upon an erroneous confusion between mechanical determinism 
and determinism in general — a confusion from which Kant himself 
is not altogether free. Determinism in general merely affirms 
that everything that happens, and therefore all human conduct, is 
determined {determinatur — hence the name of the theory) by sufficient 


reasons, apart from which it cannot take place, and given which it 
happens with necessity. But although the general concept of 
.necessity is always identical with itself, necessity as actual fact 
varies according to the sphere in which it is realised ; and 
corresponding to the three chief kinds of necessity (with reference 
to events and actions) there may be distinguished three kinds of 
determinism : (i) mechanical determinism^ which certainly is 
exclusive of morality ; (2) psychological determinism, which allows 
for some moral elements but is hardly compatible with others ; 
(3) rationally ideal determinism, which gives full scope to the 
demands of morality. 

Mechanical necessity is undoubtedly present in phenomena, 
but the assertion that it is the only kind of necessity that exists 
is simply a consequence of the materialistic metaphysics which 
would reduce all that is to mechanical movements of matter. 
This view, however, has nothing to do with the conviction that 
everything that happens has a sufficient reason which determines it 
with necessity. To regard man as a wheel in the world machine, 
one must at least admit the existence of such a machine, and by 
no means all determinists would agree to this. Many of them 
regard the material world merely as a presentation in the mind of 
spiritual beings, and hold that it is not the latter who ar-e mechanic- 
ally determined by real things, but that phenomena are mentally 
determined in accordance with the laws of the inner life of the 
spiritual beings, of which man is one. 

Leaving metaphysics for the present on one side and confining 
ourselves to the limits of general experience, we undoubtedly find 
already in the animal world inner psychological necessity essentially 
irreducible to mechanism. Animals ' are determined in their 
actions not merely externally, but also from within, not by 
the push and pressure of things, but by impelling motives, i.e. by 
their own ideas. Even granting that these motives are caused 

^ In a certain sense of course the same may be said of plants and even of the different 
parts of the inorganic world, for there does not exist in nature pure mechanism or 
absolute souUessness ; but in these preliminary remarks I wish to keep to what is 
indisputable and generally understood. Concerning the different kinds of causality 
or necessity in connection with the problem of the freedom of will see in particular 
Schopenhauer, Grundprobl. des Ethik and fVille in der Natur. I have given the essence 
of his views in my Kritika otvletcimnii natchal {Critique of Abstract Principles), 
chap, ix. 


by outer objects, they nevertheless arise and act in the animal's 
mind in accordance with its own nature. This psychological 
necessity is of course not freedom, but it cannot be identified with 
mechanical necessity.^ Where Kant attempts to identify the two, 
the erroneousness of his contention is betrayed by. a curiously un- 
fortunate comparison he makes. In his words the freedom of 
being determined by one's own ideas is in truth no better than 
the freedom of a roasting-jack which being once set going pro- 
duces its movements by itself. Not only Kant, who was opposed to 
any kind of hyloism (animation of matter), but the most poetically 
minded Natur-phiksoph would certainly not ascribe to such an 
object as a roasting-jack the power of spontaneously producing its 
movements. When we say that it turns by itself we simply 
mean that, owing to the force of the impetus it has received, it 
continues to move alone. The words "by itself" mean here " with- 
out the help of any new additional agent" — the same as the 
French tout seul^ — and in no way presupposes that/ the object 
moved contributes anything of itself to the movement. But 
when we say of an animal that it moves by itself, we mean 
precisely its inward participation in producing movements. It 
flees from an enemy or runs towards food, not because these 
movements have been externally communicated to it beforehand, 
but because at that moment it experiences fear of the enemy or 
desire for food. Of cdurse these psychological states are not free 
acts of will, nor do they immediately produce bodily movements ; 
they merely set going a certain mechanism which is already there, 
fitted for the execution of certain actions. But the special 
peculiarity which does not allow of animal life being reduced to 
mere mechanism is that, for the normal interaction between the 

' In the Polish language the word sam has kept only this negative sense — alone without 
the others (the derivative samotny— lonely) ; in the Russian and the German languages both 
meanings are possible, and if the positive (the inner, spontaneous causality) is given the 
negative (absence of any other cause) is presupposed, but not vice versa. Thus the 
word samouchka (self-taught) denotes a man who has himself been the cause of his educa- 
tion and who studied alone without the help of others. The two meanings are here 
combined as in similar words in other languages, e.g. the German SelbsteraiehuHg ot the 
English self-help. But when we say that a roasting-jack moves {sam) by itself {Selist), the 
word has merely the negative meaning that at the present moment nothing external is 
pushing the object. But it is certainly not meant that the jack is the spontaneous 
cause of its movements ; the cause is wholly contained in the previous impetus, external 
to the object. 


animal organism and the external environment to take place, the 
latter must take for the animal the form of a motive and 
determine the animal's movements in accordance with its own 
pleasant or unpleasant feelings. The presence or absence of the 
capacity for feeling which is inseparably connected with the two 
other faculties of willing and of representing — i.e. the presence 
or absence of an inner life — is the most important difference that 
we can conceive. And if we grant the presence of this inner 
life in the animal and deny it to a mechanical automaton, we 
have'no right to identify the two as Kant does.^ 

The psychical life as manifested in the different species and in 
individual animals (and in man) presents qualitative differences 
which enable us, for instance, to distinguish between the ferocious 
and the meek, the brave and the cowardly, etc. Animals are not 
aware of these qualities as either good or bad ; but in human 
beings the same qualities are regarded as indicating a good or a 
bad nature. There is a moral element involved here, and experi- 
ence unquestionably proves that good nature may develop and bad 
be suppressed or corrected ; we already have here a certain object 
for moral philosophy and a problem of its practical application, 
though of course there is as yet no question as to the freedom of 
will. The final independence of ethics of this metaphysical 
problem is, however, to be discovered not within the sphere of 
psychical life which is common to man and animal, but within 
the sphere of human morality proper. 


Just as in the animal world psychological necessity is super- 
added to the mechanical without cancelling the latter or being 
reduced to it, so in the human world to these two kinds of 
necessity is added the ideally rational or moral necessity. It 
implies that the motives or sufficient reasons of human actions are 
not limited to concrete particular ideas which affect the will through 

' The logical right to doubt the presence of a mental life in animals must be based 
upon the same grounds upon which I doubt the existence of minds other than my own 
(see above). An exact solution of this purely theoretical problem is impossible in the 
domain of ethics and is not necessary for it ; it is a question for epistemology and 



the pleasant or unpleasant sensations, but may be supplied by 
the universal rational idea of the good acting upon the conscious 
will in the form of absolute duty or, in Kant's terminology, 
in the form of a categorical imperative. To put it more plainly, 
man may do good apart from and contrary to any self-interested 
considerations, for the sake of the good itself, from reverence 
for duty or the moral law. This is the culminating point of 
morality, which is, however, quite compatible with determinism 
and in no way requires the so-called freedom of will. Those who 
affirm the contrary ought first to banish from the human mind 
and language the very term " moral necessity," for it would be a 
contradictio in adjecto if morality were possible only on condition 
of free choice. And yet the idea expressed by this term is not only 
clear to every one, but follows from the very nature of the case. 
Necessity in general is the absolute dependence of an action 
(in the broad sense, effectus) upon a ground which determines 
it, and is therefore called sufficient. When this ground is a 
physical blow or shock, the necessity is mechanical j when a 
mental excitation, the necessity is psychological ; and when the 
idea of the good, it is moral. Just as there have been futile 
attempts to reduce psychology to mechanics, so now an equally 
futile attempt is made to reduce morality to psychology, i.e. to 
show that the true motives of human action can only be mental 
affections and not a sense of duty — in other words, to prove that 
man never acts for conscience' sake alone. To prove this is, of 
course, impossible. It is no argument to say that the moral idea 
is comparatively seldom a sufficient ground for action. Plants 
and animals are only an insignificant quantity as compared with 
the inorganic mass of the earth ; but no one could conclude 
from this that there is no fauna and flora on the earth. Moral 
necessity is simply the finest flower on the psychological soil of 
humanity, and for this reason it is all the more important for 

Everything that is higher or more perfect presupposes by 
its very existence certain freedom from the lower, or, to speak 
more exactly, from the exclusive domination by the lower. 
Thus the capacity of being determined to action by means of 
ideas or motives means freedom from the exclusive domination by 
material impact and pressure — i.e. psychological necessity means 


freedom from mechanical necessity. In the same way moral 
necessity, while wholly retaining its necessary character, means 
freedom from the lower, psychological necessity. If a person's 
actions can be determined by the pure idea of the good or by the 
absolute demands ot moral duty, it means that he is free from 
the overpowering influence of emotions and may successfully 
resist the most powerful of them. But this rational freedom has 
nothing in common with the so-called freedom of will which 
means that the will is determined by nothing except itself, 
or, according to the incomparable formula of Duns Scotus, 
" nothing except the will itself causes the act of willing in the 
will " {nihil aliud a voluntate causat actum volendi in voluntate). 
I do not say that there is no such freedom of will ; I only say 
that there is none of it in moral actions. In such actions will is 
determined by the idea of the good or the moral law which is 
universal and necessary, and independent of will both in its 
content and in its origin. It may be thought, however, that 
the act itself of accepting or not accepting the moral law as the 
principle of one's will depends on that will alone, and that this 
explains why one and the same idea of the good is taken by 
some as a sufficient motive for action and is rejected by others. 
The different effects are due, however, in the first place, to the 
fact that one and the same idea has for different people a different 
degree of clearness and completeness, and secondly, to the unequal 
receptivity of different natures to moral motives generally. But 
then all causality and all necessity presupposes a special receptivity 
of given objects to a certain kind of stimuli. The stroke of a 
billiard cue which moves a billiard ball has no effect whatever on 
a sun ray ; juicy grass which excites irrepressible longing in a 
deer is not, as a rule, a motive of willing in a cat, and so on. If 
the indifference of the sun ray to the strokes of a cue or the 
dislike of vegetable food by a carnivorous animal be regarded as a 
manifestation of free will, then, of course, man's good or bad 
actions must also be considered arbitrary. But this is simply a 
gratuitous introduction of misleading terminology. 

For the idea of the good as duty to become a sufficient 
reason or motive for action, a union of two factors is necessary : 
sufficient clearness and fulness of the idea itself in consciousness 
and sufficient moral receptivity of the subject. Whatever the 


one-sided schools of ethics may say, it is clear that the presence 
of one of these factors in the absence of the other is insufficient 
for producing the moral effect. Thus, to use a Biblical 
example, Abraham, who had the greatest moral receptivity but 
an insufficient knowledge of what is contained in the idea of the 
good, decided to kill his son. He was fully conscious of the 
imperative form of the moral law as the expression of the higher 
will, and accepted it implicitly ; he was simply lacking in the 
conception of what may and what may not be a good or an 
object of God's will — a clear proof that even saints stand in need 
of moral philosophy. In the Bible Abraham's decision is 
regarded in two ways — (i) as an act of religious devotion and 
self-sacrifice, which brought to the patriarch and his posterity 
the greatest blessings, and (2) as involving the idea that God's 
will is qualitatively indifferent — an idea so erroneous and so 
dangerous that interference from above was necessary in order 
to prevent his intention being carried out. (I need not here 
touch upon the connection of the event with heathen darkness nor 
upon its mysterious relation to Christian light.) In contradistinc- 
tion to Abraham, the prophet Balaam, in spite of his being fully 
conscious of the right course, was led by his vicious heart to 
prefer the king's gifts to the decree of the Divine will and to 
curse the people of God. 

When the moral motive is defective in the one respect or 
the other, it does not operate ; and when it is sufficient in both 
respects it operates with necessity like any other cause. Suppose 
I accept the moral law as a motive for action solely for its own 
sake, out of reverence for it and without any admixture of 
extraneous motives. This very capacity to respect the moral 
law so highly and so disinterestedly as to prefer it to all else is 
itself a quality of mind and is not arbitrary, and the activity that 
follows from it, though rationally ^tf^, is entirely subject to moral 
necessity and cannot possibly be arbitrary or accidental. It is free 
in the relative sense, free from the lower mechanical and 
psychological necessity, but it is certainly not free from the 
inner higher necessity of the absolute good. Morality and moral 
philosophy are entirely based upon rational freedom or moral 
necessity, and wholly exclude from their sphere the irrational 
unconditional freedom or the arbitrary choice. 


In order that the conscious choice of man might be deter- 
mined by the idea of the good with full inward necessity and have a 
sufficient motive, the content of this idea must be sufficiently 
developed ; the intellect must present the idea to the will in 
its full force — and to do this is precisely the function of moral 
philosophy. Thus ethics is not only compatible with deter- 
minism, but renders the highest form of necessity possible. 
When a man of high moral development consciously subordinates 
his will to the idea of the good, which is completely known to 
him and has been fully thought out, it is clear that there is no 
shadow of arbitrariness in his submission to the moral law, but 
that it is absolutely necessary. 

And yet there is such a thing as an absolute freedom of choice. 
It is found not in the moral self-determination, not in the acts of 
the practical reason where Kant sought it, but just at the opposite 
pole of the inner life. At present I can only indicate my meaning 
partially and imperfectly. As already said, the good cannot be the 
direct object of arbitrary choice. Granted the requisite degree of 
understanding and of receptivity on the part of the subject, its 
own excellence is quite a sufficient reason for preferring it to the 
opposite principle, arid there is here no room for arbitrary choice. 
When I choose the good, I do so not because of my whim but 
because it is good, because it has value, and I am capable of 
realising its significance. But what determines the opposite act 
of rejecting the good and choosing the evil ? Is such choice 
entirely due to the fact that, as a certain school of ethics supposes, 
I do not know evil and mistakenly take it for the good .? It is 
impossible to prove that this is always the case. A sufficient 
knowledge of the good in combination with a sufficient re- 
ceptivity to it necessarily determines our will in the moral sense. 
But the question still remains whether an insufficient receptivity 
to the good and a receptivity to evil is merely a natural fact, or 
whether it depends on the will, which in this case, having no 
rational motive to determine it in the bad direction (for to 
submit to evil rather than to good is contrary to reason), is 
itself the ultimate cause of its own determination. For a rational 
being there can be no objective reason for loving evil as such, 
and the will therefore may only choose it arbitrarily — on the con- 
dition, of course, that there be full, clear consciousness of it ; for 


when there is only half-consciousness, the bad choice is sufficiently 
explained by a mistake of judgment. The good determines my 
choice in its favour by all the infinite fulness of its positive 
content and reality. This choice is therefore infinitely deter- 
mined ; it is absolutely necessary, and there is no arbitrariness in 
it at all. In the choice of evil, on the contrary, there is no deter- 
mining reason, no kind of necessity, and therefore infinite 
arbitrariness. The question then assumes the following form : 
given a full and clear knowledge of the good, can a rational being 
prove to be so unreceptive to it as to reject it utterly and 
unconditionally and choose the evij ? Such lack of receptivity to 
the good that is perfectly known would be something absolutely 
irrational, and it is only an irrational act of this description that 
would truly come under the definition of absolute freedom 
or of arbitrary choice. We have no right a priori to deny its 
possibility. Definite arguments for or against it may only be 
found in the obscurest depths of metaphysics. But in any case, 
before asking the question whether there can exist a being who, 
with a full knowledge of the good, may yet arbitrarily reject it 
and choose the evil, we must first make clear to ourselves all 
that the idea of the good contains and involves. This is the 
task of moral philosophy which is thus seen to be presupposed by 
the metaphysical question as to the freedom of will (if this question 
is to be treated seriously), and certainly not to depend upon it.* 
Before going into any metaphysics we can and must learn what 
our reason finds to be the good in human nature, and how it 
develops and expands this natural good, raising it to the significance 
of absolute moral perfection. 

^ A considerable part of my theoretical philosophy will be devoted to the inquiry 
into the problem of free will. So far, it a sufficient for me to show that this problem 
has no immediate bearing upon moral philosophy which is concerned with the conception 
of the good, whether the good be regarded as an object of arbitrary choice or as a 
motive which necessarily determines the acts of rational and moral beings. In what 
follows I shall always mean by human freedom, individual freedom, etc., either moral 
freedom which is an ethical fact, or political freedom which is an ethical postulate, 
without any more referring to the absolute freedom of choice which is merely a 
metaph tical problem. 





However convincing or authoritative a moral teaching may 
be, it vifill remain fruitless and devoid of power unless it finds 
a secure foundation in the moral nature of man. In spite of 
all the differences in the degree of spiritual development in the 
past and in the present, in spite of all the individual variations and 
the general influences of race, climate, and historical conditions, 
there exists an ultimate basis of universal human morality, and 
upon it all that is of importance in ethics must rest. The 
admission of this truth does not in any way depend upon our 
metaphysical or scientific conception of the origin of man. 
Whether the result of a long evolution of animal organisms or 
an immediate product of a higher creative act, human nature, 
with all its characteristic features — the most important among 
them being the moral features — is in any case a fact. 

The distinctive character of the psychical nature of man is 
not denied by the great representative of the evolutionary theory. 
" No doubt the difference in this respect (between man and other 
animals) is enormous, even if we compare the mind of one of the 
lowest savages, who has no words to express any number higher 
than four, and who uses hardly any abstract terms for common 
objects or for the affections, with that of the most highly 
organised ape. The difference would, no doubt, still remain 
immense, even if one of the higher apes had been improved or 
civilised as much as a dog has been in comparison with its parent- 
form, the wolf or jackal. The Fuegians rank amongst the 
lowest barbarians, but I was continually struck with surprise how 



closely the three natives on board H.M.S. Beagle, who had lived 
some years in England, and could talk a little English, resembled 
us in disposition and in most of our mental faculties." ^ 

Further on Darw^in declares that he entirely agrees with the 
writers who hold that the greatest difference between man and 
animals consists in the moral sentiment,^ which he, for his part, 
regards as innate and not as acquired.^ But carried away by his 
desire — within certain limits a legitimate one — to fill up the 
'immense' distance by intermediary links, Darwin makes one 
fundamental error. He regards all human morality as in the 
first instance social, thus connecting it with the social instincts 
of animals. Personal or individual morality has, according to 
Darwin, merely a derivative significance, and is a later result of 
historical evolution. He maintains that the only virtues which 
exist for savages are those that are required by the interests of 
their social group.* But one simple and universal fact is sufficient 
to disprove this contention. 

There exists one feeling which serves no social purpose, is 
utterly absent in the highest animals, but is clearly manifested in 
the lowest of the human races. In virtue of this feeling the most 
savage and undeveloped man is ashamed of — i.e. recognises as 
wrong — and conceals a physiological act which not only satisfies 
his own desire and need, but is, moreover, useful and necessary for 
the preservation of the species. Directly connected with this is 
the reluctance to remain in primitive nakedness ; it induces 
savages to invent clothes even when the climate and the simplicity 
of life make them quite unnecessary. 

This moral fact more sharply than any other distinguishes 
man from all the other animals, for among them we find not the 
slightest trace of anything approaching to it. Darwin himself, 
discussing as he does the religious instinct of dogs, etc., never 
attempts to look to animals for any rudiments of shame. 
And indeed, not to speak of the lower creatures, even the highly- 
endowed and well-trained domestic animals are no exception. 
The noble steed afforded the prophet in the Bible a suitable 
image for depicting the shamelessness of the dissolute young men 
of the Jerusalem nobility ; the loyal dog has of old been rightly 

1 Darwin, The Dtscent of Man (beginning of chap, iii.). a /4y_ ^jj^p^ jjj 

8 Ibid., the answer to Mill. * mj,^ on social virtues. 



considered a typical example of utter shamelessness ; and among 
the wild animals, the creature which in certain respects is still 
more developed, the monkey, affords a particularly vivid instance 
of unbridled cynicism, all the more apparent because of the 
monkey's external likeness to man, and its extremely lively 
intelligence and passionate temperament. 

As it is utterly impossible to discover shame among animals, 
naturalists of a certain school are compelled to deny it to man. 
Not having discovered any modest animals, Darwin talks of the 
shamelessness of the savage peoples.' From the man who went 
round the world on his ship Beagle we might expect the 
positive and definite evidence of an eye-witness ; but instead he 
merely makes a few brief and unsupported remarks, convincing to 
no one. Not only savages but even the civilised peoples of Biblical 
or Homeric times may strike us as shameless, in the sense 
that the feeling of shame which they undoubtedly possessed 
did not always express itself in the same way, nor extend to 
all the details of everyday life with which it is associated in our 
case. So far as this goes, however, there is no need to appeal to 
distant places and times : people who live side by side with us, but 
belong to a different class, often consider permissible things of 
which we are ashamed. And yet no one would contend that the 
feeling of shame was unknown to them. Still less is it possible 
to make any general deductions from cases of absolute moral 
deficiency which are found in the annals of crime. Headless 
monsters are sometimes born into the human world, but never- 
theless a head remains an essential feature of our organism. 

To prove his contention that primitive man is devoid of 
shame, Darwin also briefly refers to the religious customs of the 
ancients, i.e. to the phallic cult. But this important fact is rather 
an argument against him. Intentional, exaggerated shameless- 
ness — shamelessness made into a religious principle — evidently 
presupposes the existence of shame. In like manner the sacrifice 

1 The Descent of Man. When dealing with savages even serious scientists sometimes 
show remarkable thoughtlessness. The other day I saw an amusing instance of it in 
the writings of the anthropologist Brocke, He affirms that the aborigines of the 
Andaman Islands wear no clothes ; for, he says, one cannot regard as such a thin belt 
with a piece of leather attached to it. I think one could with more ground deny the 
essential function of clothes to the European dress-coat; 


by the parents of their children to the gods certainly does not 
prove the absence of pity or of parental love, but, on the contrary, 
presupposes it. The main point about these sacrifices is that the 
loved children were killed : if that wrhich was sacrificed were not 
dear to the person who gave it, the sacrifice would be of no value 
and would lose its character of sacrifice. (It is only later, as 
the religious feeling became weaker, that this fundamental con- 
dition of all sacrifice came to be avoided by means of different 
symbolical substitutes.) No religion at all, not even the most 
savage one, could be based upon a mere absence of shame, any 
more than upon a mere absence of pity. False religion as much as 
the true presupposes the moral nature of man, and does so in the 
very demand for its perversion. The demoniac powers, wor- 
shipped in the bloody and dissolute cults of ancient heathendom, 
were nurtured and lived by this real perversion, by this positive 
immorality. These religions did not require merely the natural 
performance of a certain physiological act. No, their essence 
was the intensification of depravity, the overstepping of all bounds 
imposed by nature, society, and conscience. The religious char- 
acter of the orgies proves the extreme importance of this circum- 
stance. If they involved nothing beyond natural shamelessness, 
what could be the source of the strained, the perverted, the 
mystical element in them ? 

It is obvious that it would not be necessary for Darwin to use 
such unconvincing indirect arguments in support of his view 
could he produce any trustworthy facts to show the presence of 
even rudimentary modesty among animals. But there are no such 
facts, and shame undoubtedly remains, even from the external and 
empirical point of view, the distinguishing characteristic of man. 


The feeling of shame (in its fundamental sense) is a fact 
which absolutely distinguishes man from all lower nature. No 
other animal has this feeling in the least degree, while in man it 
has been manifested from time immemorial and is subject to 
growth and development. 

But that which is involved in this fact gives it a further and 
a far deeper significance. The feeling of shame is not merely a 


distinctive feature whereby man is separated ofF for external 
observation from the rest of the animal world ; in it man 
actually separates himself from material nature, his own as well as 
that external to him. In being ashamed of his own natural 
inclinations and organic functions, man proves that he is not 
merely a material being, but is something other and higher. 
That which is ashamed separates itself in the very mental act 
of shame from that of which it is ashamed. But material nature 
cannot be foreign to or external to itself. Hence if I am 
ashamed of my material nature, I prove by that very fact that 
I am not identical with it. And it is precisely at the moment 
when man falls under the sway of the material nature and 
is overwhelmed by it that his distinctive peculiarity and, inner 
independence assert themselves in the feeling of shame, in and 
through which he regards the material life as something other, 
as something foreign to himself, which must not dominate 

Even if individual cases of sexual shame were to be found 
among animals, it would simply be a premonition of the human 
nature. For in any case it is clear that a being who is ashamed 
of his animality in that very fact proves himself to be more than a 
mere animal. No one who believes the story of the speaking ass 
of Balaam ever denied, on that ground, that the gift of rational 
speech is a characteristic peculiarity of man as distinct from other 
animals. But still more fundamental in this sense is the meaning 
of sexual shame. 

This fundamental fact of history and of anthropology — un- 
noticed or intentionally omitted in the book of the great modern 
scientist — had been noted three thousand years before in an 
inspired passage in a book of far more authority : " And the 
eyes of them both were opened (at the moment of fall) and they 
knew that they were naked ; and they sewed fig leaves together, 
and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the 
Lord God . . . and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 
presence of the Lord God ampngst the trees of the garden. And 
the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him. Where art 
thou ? And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was 
afraid, because I was naked ; and I hid myself. And He said. 
Who told thee that thou wast naked ? " 


At the moment of fall a higher voice speaks in the depth of 
the human soul, asking : Where art thou ? where is thy moral 
dignity ? Man, lord of nature and the image of God, dost thou 
still exist ? And the answer is at once given : I heard the 
Divine voice and I was afraid of laying bare my lower nature. lam 
ashamed, therefore I exist ; and not physically only, but morally 
— I am ashamed of my animality, therefore I still exist as man. 

It is by his own action and by testing his own being that 
man attains to moral self-consciousness. Materialistic science 
would attempt in vain to give, from its point of view, a satis- 
factory answer to the question asked of man long ago : " Who 
told thee that thou wast naked ? " 

The independent and ultimate meaning of the sense of 
shame would be explained away if this moral fact could be 
connected with some material gain for the individual or for the 
species in the struggle for existence. In that case shame could be 
accounted for as a form of the instinct of animal self-preservation 
— individual or social. But there is no such connection. 

The feeling of shame associated with the sexual act might 
be useful to the individual and to the species as a preventive 
against the abuse of this important organic function. In the 
case of animals which follow their instincts we do not find any 
injurious excesses ; but in the case of man, owing to a superior 
development of the individual consciousness and will, excesses 
become "possible ; and against the most dangerous of them — the 
abuse of the sexual instinct — a useful check is provided in the 
feeling of shame which develops under the general conditions of 
natural selection. This is a plausible argument, but it is not 
really valid. To begin with, it involves an inner contradiction. 
If the strongest and the most fundamental of instincts — the instinct 
of self-preservation — is powerless to prevent man from dangerous 
excesses, how could this be done by a new and derivative instinct 
of shame .? And if the instinctive promptings of shame do 
not have sufficient influence over man, which is really the case, 
no specific utility can attach to shame, and it remains inexplicable 
from the utilitarian and materialistic point of view. Instead of 
checking the excesses, which are a violation of the normal order, 
it itself simply proves to be an additional object of such a 
violation — i.e. an utterly useless complication. Connected with 


this is another consideration which contradicts the utilitarian 
view of shame, — the feet, namely, that this feeling manifests itself 
most clearly before entering upon sexual relations : shame speaks 
most clearly and emphatically virginibus puerisque, so that if shame 
had a direct practical significance, so far from being useful, it 
would be detrimental both to the individual and to the species. 
But if shame has no practical effect even when it is felt most, 
no subsequent effect can be expected from it. So long as shame 
is felt there can as yet be no question of sexual abuse ; and when 
there is abuse, it is too late to speak of shame. The normal 
person is sufficiently safeguarded from dangerous excesses by 
the simple feeling of satisfied desire, and an abnormal person or 
one with perverted instincts is least of all noted for his sense of 
shame. Thus, speaking generally, where shame might, from 
the utilitarian point of view, be useful, it is absent, and where it 
is present it is of no use at all. 

In truth the feeling of shame is excited not by the abuse of 
a certain organic function, but by the simple exercise of that 
function : the natural fact is itself experienced as shameful. 
If this is a manifestation of the instinct of self-preservation, it is 
so in quite a special sense. What is being safeguarded here is 
not the subject's material welfare, but his highest human dignity ; 
or rather that dignity evinces itself as still safe in the depths of 
our being. The strongest manifestation of the material organic 
life calls forth a reaction on the part of the spiritual principle 
which reminds the personal consciousness that man is not merely 
a natural fact, that he must not as a passive instrument serve 
the vital purposes of nature. This is only a reminder^ and it 
rests with the personal rational will to take advantage of it. As 
I have already said, this moral feeling has no direct real effect, 
and if its promptings are in vain, shame itself gradually disappears 
and is at last completely lost. 

It is clear, then, that even if it were true that individual persons 
or entire tribes are devoid of shame, this fact would not have 
the significance ascribed to it. The unquestionable shamelessness 
of individual persons as well as the questionable shamelessness 
of entire peoples, can only mean that in these particular cases 
the spiritual principle in man which lifts him above material 
nature is either still undeveloped or is already lost — that this 


particular man or this particular group of mep have either not 
yet risen above the bestial stage or have once more returned to 
it. But the hereditary or acquired animality of this or that 
person or persons cannot destroy or wezkcn the significance of 
the moral dignity of man, which with the enormous majority of 
people clearly asserts itself in the feeling of shame — a feeling 
absolutely unknown to any animal. The fact that infants at 
the breast, or the mute, are, like animals, unable to speak, does 
not in any way diminish the significance of language as the 
expression of a distinctive, purely human rationality, not found 
in other animals. 


Apart from all empirical considerations as to the genesis of 
the feeling of shame in humanity, the significance of that 
feeling lies in the feet that it determines man's ethical relation 
to his material nature. Man is ashamed of being dominated or 
ruled by it (especially in its chief manifestation), and thereby 
asserts his inner independence and his superior dignity in 
relation to it, in virtue of which he must possess and not be 
possessed by it. 

Side by side with this fundamental moral feeling determining 
the right attitude to the lower, material principle in each of us, 
there exists in human nature another feeling which serves as a 
basis for a moral relation to other human, or, speaking generally, 
to other living beings that are like us — namely, the feeling of pity. ^ 
The essence of it lies in the fact that a given subject is conscious 
in a corresponding manner of the suffering or the want of 
others, i.e. responds to it more or less painfully, thus more 
or less exhibiting his solidarity with the others. The ultimate 
and innate character of this moral feeling is not denied by any 
serious thinker or scientist, if only because the feeling of pity 
or compassion — in contradistinction to that of shame — is present, 
in its rudimentary stage, in many animals,'' and consequently from 

' I use the simplest term, the most usual in technical works on the subject being 
the terms sympathy or compassion. 

2 A number of facts showing this are to be found in works of descriptive zoology 
(particularly in Brehm's Life of Animals), and also in the literature on animal 
psychology that has of late been considerably developed. 


no point of view can be regarded as a later product of human 
development. Thus if a shameless man reverts to the brute 
stage, a pitiless man falls lower than the animal level. 

The close connection of the feeling of pity with the social 
instincts of men and animals cannot be doubted owing to the very 
nature of that feeling. In its essence, however, it is an individual 
moral state, and even in the case of animals it is not reducible to 
social relations, much less so in the case of man. If the need for 
a social unit were the only foundation of pity, that feeling could 
only be experienced towards the creatures that belong to one and 
the same social whole. This is generally but by no means 
always the case, at any rate not among the higher animals. 
Numerous facts of the tenderest love^ between animals (both 
wild and domestic) belonging to different and sometimes remote 
zoological groups are well known. It is very strange that in the 
face of this fact Darwin should maintain — without adducing any 
evidence to prove his contention — that among savage peoples 
sympathetic feelings are limited to members of one and the 
same narrow group. Of course among the cultured nations, 
too, most people show real sympathy chiefly towards their 
own family and most intimate friends, but the individual 
moral feeling in all races may transcend — and did do so 
of old — not only these narrow limits, but all empirical limits 
altogether. To accept Darwin's contention unconditionally 
would be to admit that a human savage cannot attain to 
the moral level sometimes reached by dogs, monkeys, and even 

The sympathetic feeling can grow and develop indefinitely, 
but its ultimate essence is one and the same among all living 
beings. The first stage and the fundamental form of all 
solidarity in the animal kingdom and in the human world is 

^ Love in the purely psychological sense (apart from the materially sexual and the 
aesthetic relation) is iirmly established, permanent pity or compassion (sympathy). 
Long before Schopenhauer the Russian people identified these two things in their 
language : " to love " and " to pity " is one and the same for them. One need not go 
so far, but it cannot be disputed that the fundamental subjective manifestation of love 
as a moral feeling is pity. 

2 It is obvious, of course, that such cases with regard to wild animals can only be 
properly observed when the animals are in captivity. It is very probable indeed that 
the sympathetic feelings in question are awakened chiefly in captivity. 



parental (and .in particular maternal) love. This is the simple 
root from which springs all the complexity and multiplicity of 
the internal and external social relations ; and it is here that 
we see most clearly that the individually-psychological essence of 
the moral bond is no other than pity. For no other mental 
state can express the original solidarity of the mother with her 
weak, helpless, piteous offspring wholly dependent upon her. 


The feelings of shame and of pity essentially determine our 
moral attitude in the first place to our own material nature, and 
in the second to all other living beings. In so far as a man is 
modest and pitiful he stands in a moral relation ' to himself and to 
his neighbour ' (to use the old terminology) ; shamelessness and 
pitilessness, on the contrary, undermine the very roots of his 
character. Apart from these two feelings there exists in us a 
third one, irreducible to the first two, and as ultimate as they ; it 
determines man's moral attitude not to his own lower nature 
and not to the world, of beings similar to him, but to something 
different recognised by him as the higher ; as that which he can 
be neither ashamed of, nor feel pity for, but which he must revere. 
This feeling of reverence (reverentia), or of awe (piety, pietas), 
before the higher forms in man the moral basis of religion, and of 
the religious order of life. When abstracted by philosophical 
reflection from its historic manifestations, it constitutes the so- 
called ' natural religion.' The ultimate and the innate character 
of this feeling cannot be denied for the same reason that the 
innateness of pity is not seriously denied by any one. In a 
rudimentary form both the feeling of pity and of reverence are 
found among animals. It is absurd to expect to find among 
them religion in our sense of the term. But the general element- 
ary feeling upon which human religion is ultimately based 

namely, the feeling of reverence and awe in the presence of some- 
thing higher — may unconsciously spring up in creatures other 
than man. In this sense the following remarks must be said to 
be true : " The feeling of religious devotion is a highly complex 
one, consisting of love, complete submission to an exalted and 
mysterious superior, a strong sense of dependence, fear, reverence 


gratitude, hope for the future, and perhaps other elements. No 
being could experience so complex an emotion until advanced in 
his intellectual and moral faculties to at least a moderately high 
level. Nevertheless, we see some distant approach to this state 
of mind in the deep love of a dog for his master, associated virith 
complete submission, some fear, and perhaps other feelings. The 
behaviour of a dog when returning to his master after an absence, 
and, as I may add, of a monkey to his beloved keeper, is widely 
different from that towards their fellows. In the latter case the 
transports of joy appear to be somewhat less, and the sense of 
equality is shown in every action." ^ The representative of the 
scientific evolutionary view admits then that in the quasi-religious 
relation of the dog or of the monkey to a higher being (from 
their point of view) there is, in addition to fear and self-interest, 
a moral element and one quite distinct from the sympathetic 
feelings which these animals exhibit in relation to their equals. 
This specific relation to the higher is precisely what I call 
reverence ; and if one admits it in dogs and monkeys it would be 
strange to deny it to man, and to deduce human religion from 
fear and self-interest alone. These lower feelings undoubtedly 
contribute to the formation and the development of religion. 
But the ultimate basis of it is the distinctive religiously moral 
feeling of man's reverent love to what is more excellent than 


The fundamental feelings of shame, pity, and reverence exhaust 
the sphere of man's possible moral relations to that which is below 
him, that which is on a level with him, and that which is above 
him. Mastery over the material senses, solidarity with other 
living beings, and inward voluntary submission to the superhuman 
principle — these are the eternal and permanent foundations of 
the moral life of humanity. The degree of mastery, the depth 
and the extent of solidarity, the completeness of the inward 
submission vary in the course of history, passing from a lesser to 

' Darwin, op. cit., end of ch. iii. Darwin had been speaking before of the intellectual 
side of religion — of the acknowledgment of an invisible cause or causes for unusual 
events. He finds this too among the animals. 


a greater perfection, but the principle in each of the three spheres 
of relation remains one and the same. 

All other phenomena of the moral life, all the so-called virtues, 
may be shown to be the variations of these three essentials or the 
results of interaction between them and the intellectual side of 
man. Courage unA fortitude, for instance, are undoubtedly exempli- 
fications — though in a more external and superficial form — of the 
same principle, the more profound and significant expression of 
which is found in shame, — the principle, namely, of rising above 
and dominating the lower material nature. Shame (in its typical 
manifestation) elevates man above the animal instinct oi generic self- 
preservation ; courage elevates him above another animal instinct 
— that of personal self-preservation. But apart from this dis- 
tinction in the object or the sphere of application, these two 
forms of one and the same moral principle differ more profoundly 
in another respect. The feeling of shame necessarily involves a 
condemnation of that with which it is associated : that of which I 
am ashamed is declared by me, in and through the very act of being 
ashamed, to be bad or wrong. But a courageous feeling or action, 
on the contrary, may simply express the nature of a given individual, 
and, as such, contains no condemnation of its opposite. For this 
reason courage is found among animals, having in their case no 
moral significance. As the function of obtaining and assimilat- 
ing food gets more complex and developed it becomes in some 
animals the destructive predatory instinct which may sometimes 
outweigh the instinct of self-preservation. This domination of one 
instinct over another is precisely what is meant by animal courage. 
Its presence or absence is simply a natural fact, not inwardly 
connected with any self-valuation. No one would think of 
saying that hares or hens are ashamed of their timidity j courage- 
ous animals when they happen to be afraid are not ashamed 
of it either — nof do they boast of their courage. In man, too, 
the quality of courage as such is essentially of that character. But 
owing to our higher nature and to the intervention of the in- 
tellectual elements this quality acquires a new meaning which 
connects it with the root of the distinctly human morality — with 
shame. Man is conscious of courage not merely as of the pre- 
dominance of the predatory instinct, but as the power of the spirit 
to rise above the instinct of personal self-preservation. The 


presence of this spiritual power is recognised as a virtue, and the 
absence of it is condemned as shameful. Thus the essential kin- 
ship between shame and courage is seen in the fact that the 
absence of the second virtue is condemned in accordance with the 
standard set by the first : a lack of courage becomes the subject 
for shame. This does not apply with the same force to other 
' virtues (charity, justice, humility, piety, etc.) ; their absence is 
generally condemned in a different way. And, when judging 
other people's feelings and actions, malice, injustice, haughtiness, 
impiety strike us rather as hateful and revolting than as shameful ; 
the latter definition is specially restricted to cowardice and 
voluptuousness,^ i.e. to such vices which violate the dignity of 
the human personality as such, and not its duties to others or 
to God. 

The inner dependence of other human virtues upon the three 
ultimate foundations of morality will be shown in due course. 


Of the three ultimate foundations of the moral life, one, as we 
have seen, belongs exclusively to man (shame), another (pity) is to 
a large extent found among animals, and the third (awe or 
reverence for the higher) is in a small degree observed in some 
animals. But although the rudiments of moral feeling (of the 
second and third kind) are found in the animal world, they diff^er 
essentially from the corresponding feelings in man. Animals 
may be good or bad, but the distinction between good and evil as 
such does not exist for their consciousness. In the case of man 
this knowledge of good and evil is given immediately in the feel- 
ing of shame that is distinctive of him, and, gradually developing 
from this first root and refining its concrete and sensuous form, 
it embraces the whole of human conduct in the form of con- 
science. We have seen that within the domain of man's moral 
relation to himself or to his own nature, the feeling of shame (which 
has at first a distinctly sexual character) remains identical in 
form whether it is opposed* to the instinct of generic or of indi- 

' A complex wrong-doing like treason is recognised both as revolting and as shame- 
ful for the same reason, in so far as treason includes cowardice which prefers secret 
treachery to open enmity. 


vidual self-preservation : a cowardly attachment to the mortal 
life is as shameful as giving oneself up to the sexual desire. When 
from the relation to oneself as a separate individual and a member 
of a genus we pass to the relations to other people and to God — 
relations infinitely more complex, varied, and changeable, — the 
moral self- valuation can no longer remain a simple concrete 
sensation. It inevitably passes through the medium of abstract 
thought and assumes the new form of conscience. But the two 
facts are no doubt essentially the same.i Shame and conscience 
use different language and on different occasions, but the mean- 
ing of their deliverances is one and the same : this is not good^ this 
is wrongs this is unworthy. 

This is the meaning of shame ; conscience adds to it the 
analytic explanation, "if you do this wrong or unlawful thing, 
you will be guilty of evil, sin, crime." 

The voice of conscience, in determining as good or as evil our 
relations to our neighbours and to God, alone gives them a moral 
significance which otherwise they would not possess. And as 
conscience is simply a development of shame, the whole moral life 
of man in all its three aspects springs, so to speak, ^rffw one root — 
a root that is distinctly human and essentially foreign to the 
animal world. 

If the ultimate foundation of conscience is the feeling of 
shame, it is clear that animals which are devoid of this more 
elementary feeling cannot possess the more complex development 
of it — conscience. The presence of conscience in them is some- 
times deduced from the fact that animals which have done 
something wrong look guilty. But this conclusion is based on a 
misunderstanding — on a confusion, namely, between two facts 
which, as we know from our own experience, are essentially distinct. 
The moral state of being reproached by conscience, or the state of 
repentance, has an analogy in the intellectual sphere in the con- 
sciousness of mistake or miscalculation, i.e. of an act which from 
the utilitarian or the practical point of view is purposeless or 
unprofitable and is followed by a feeling of dissatisfaction with 

^ The expressions mnie stydno (' I am ashamed ') and mnie soviistm {' I am conscience- 
stricken ') are used in the Russian language as synonymous, and, indeed, from the nature 
of the case it is impossible to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the two mental 


oneself. These two facts are similar in form, and both express 
themselves externally as confusion (physiologically as the flushing of 
the face). But although they sometimes coincide, their nature is 
so different that often they exist separately and even directly 
exclude one another. Thus, for instance, when the town-captain 
in Gogol's Inspector General is terribly indignant with himself for 
having been deceived by Hlestakov and not having deceived the 
latter instead, or when a card-sharper in sudden confusion curses 
himself for not having been clever enough at cheating, such self- 
condemnation obviously has nothing to do with the awakening 
of conscience, but rather proves an inveterate absence of con- 
science. Intellectual self-condemnation is undoubtedly present 
in the higher animals. When a well-brought-up dog is so keenly 
conscious of its own misdemeanours that it actually tries to con- 
ceal them, this certainly proves its intelligence, but has no relation 
whatever to its conscience. 


The highest moral doctrine can be no other than a complete 
and correct development of the ultimate data of human morality, 
for the universal demands involved in them cover the whole sphere 
of possible human relations. But it is precisely the universality 
of these relations that forbids us to stop at establishing their 
existence as simply given in our nature and renders a further 
development and justification of them necessary. 

The primitive, natural morality we have been considering is 
no other than the reaction of the spiritual nature against the 
lower forces — fleshly lust, egoism, and wild passions — which 
threaten to submerge and overpower it. The capacity for such a 
reaction makes man a moral being ; but if the actual force and the 
extent of the reaction is to remain indefinite, it cannot, as such, be 
the foundation of the moral order in the human world. All the 
actual manifestations of our moral nature are merely particular and 
accidental in character. Man may be more or less modest, com- 
passionate, religious : the universal norm is not given as a fact. 
The voice of conscience itself speaks more or less clearly and 
insistently, and can (in so far as it is a fact) be binding only to 
the extent to which it is heard in each given case. 


But reason, which is as innate in man as the moral feelings, 
from the first puts to his moral nature its demand for universality 
and necessity. Rational consciousness cannot rest content with 
the accidental existence of relatively good feelings from which no 
general rule can be deduced. The primary distinction between 
good and evil already implies an idea of the good free from any 
limitations^ containing in itself an absolute norm of life and activity. 
In the form of a postulate the idea of the good is inherent in 
human reason, but its actual content is determined and developed 
only through the complex work of thought. 

From the ultimate data of morality we inevitably pass to the 
general principles which reason deduces from them, and which have 
in turn played the foremost part in the different ethical theories. 



The fundamental moral feeling of shame psychologically con- 
tains man's negative relation to the animal nature which seeks to 
overpower him. To the strongest and most vivid manifestation 
of that nature the human spirit, even at a low stage of development, 
opposes the consciousness of its own dignity : I am ashamed to 
submit to the desire of the flesh, I am ashamed to be like an animal, 
the lower side of my nature must not dominate me — such domina- 
tion is shameful and evil. This self-assertion of the moral dignity 
— half-conscious and unstable in the simple feeling of shame — is 
worked up by reason into the principle of asceticism. 

The object of condemnation in asceticism is not material nature 
as such. From no point of view can it be rationally maintained 
that nature considered objectively^ — whether in its essence or in 
its appearances — is evil. It is usually supposed that the so-called 
Oriental religions, which are noted for extreme asceticism, are 
specially characterised by their identification of the principle of 
evil with physical matter, in contradistinction to true Christianity, 
which finds the source of evil in the moral sphere. But, strictly 
speaking, such identification is not to be found in any system of 
Oriental philosophy or religion. It is sufficient to mention the 
three most typical systems of India, the classical country of 
asceticism — the orthodox Brahmin Vedanta,'^ the independent 
Sankhya, and, finally. Buddhism. 

^ It assumed its present form only about the time when Buddhism disappeared from 
India (VIII. and XIII. c.a.d.), but the fundamental conceptions involved in it are to be 
found as early as the ancient Upanishads. 



According to the Vedanta, evil is illusion of the mind, which 
takes material objects for entities separate from one another and 
from the self, and takes the self to be an entity separate from the 
one absolute Being. The cause of this illusion is the one ultimate 
Spirit itself (Paramatman) which suddenly, in a moment of incom- 
prehensible blindness or ignorance (Avidya), conceived the possibility 
of something other than itself, desired that other, and thus fell into 
an illusory duality, from which sprang the world. This world 
does not exist on its own account (as external to the One) but is 
erroneously taken so to exist — and therein lies the deception and 
the evil. When a traveller in the wood takes the chopped-ofF 
branch of a tree for a snake, or, vice versa, a snake for a branch of 
a tree, neither the image of the snake nor of the branch is in itself 
evil : what is evil is the one being taken for the other, and both 
being taken for something external to the self. The ignorant 
think that their evil works are distinct from the one Reality. 
But the evil deed, the evil doer himself, and the false thought about 
their separateness are all part of the one absolute and ultimate 
Spirit in so far as it partly ^ is in the state of ignorance. Its 
self-identity is re-established in the thought of the wise ascetics 
who by mortifying the flesh have conquered in themselves the 
illusion of separateness and learnt that all is one. According to 
such a system of thought evil clearly cannot belong to material 
nature, for that nature is regarded as non-existent. Its reality is 
acknowledged in another important Indian system — in the in- 
dependent or atheistic Sankhya. In it the pure spirit (Purusha), 
existing only in the multitude of separate entities, is opposed to 
first matter or nature (Prakriti). But the latter is not as such 
the principle of wrong or of evil : evil (and that only in the 
relative sense) is in the abiding connection of the spirit with it. 
These two elements must be connected, but only inja transient 
fashion : nature must be the temporal means, and not the purpose, 
of the spirit. The paralysed man who can see (the spirit) must 
make use of the blind athlete (nature), on whose shoulders he can 
attain the end of his journey ; but once the end is reached, they 
must part. The end of the spirit is self-knowledge^that is, 

' Some Hindu books determine the 'part' of ignorance arithmetically as forming 
one-fourth (or, according to others, one-third) of the Absolute. Probably in order that 
the relation may remain unaltered the birth of the ignorant is equalised by the en- 
lightenment of the wile. 


knowledge of itself as distinct from nature. But if the spirit is to 
learn that it is distinct from nature, it must first know nature — 
and this is the only justification of the connection between the 
two. Nature is the dancer, spirit the spectator. She has shown 
herself, he has seen her, and they may part. The ascetic who 
resists natural inclinations is simply the wise man who refrains 
from using means which are no longer necessary once the end 
has been reached. Orthodox Brahmanism affirms that only the 
One exists, and that there is no other (the principle of Advaiti — 
of unity or indivisibility). The Sankhya philosophy admits the 
existence of ' the other ' — i.e. of nature — but maintains that it is 
foreign to the spirit, and, once a knowledge of it has been attained, 
unnecessary. Buddhism reconciles this duality in a general in- 
difference : spirit and nature, the One and its other are equally 
illusory. ' All is empty ' ; there is no object for will ; the desire 
to merge one's spirit in the absolute is as senseless as the desire 
for physical enjoyment. Asceticism is here reduced to a mere 
state of not willing. 

Turning from the Hindu systems to a different type of 
philosophy developed in Egypt, we find that the striking and 
original form it finally received in the gnosticism of Valentine's 
school, involved a conception of the natural world as mixed and 
heterogeneous in character. The world is, in the first place, the 
creation of the evil principle (Satan), secondly, the creation of the 
neutral and unconscious Demiurgus who is neither good nor evil, 
and thirdly, it contains manifestations of the heavenly Wisdom 
fallen from higher spheres. Thus, the visible light of our world 
was taken by the thinkers in question to be the smile of Sophia 
remembering the celestial radiance of the Pleroma (the absolute 
fulness of being) she had forsaken. Materiality as such was not, 
then, regarded by the Gnostics as evil ; light is material and yet it 
is a manifestation of the good principle. Matter is not created by 
Satan because it is in itself evil, but, on the contrary, it is evil only 
in so far as it is created by Satan, i.e. in so far as it manifests or 
externally expresses the inward nature of evil — in so far as it is 
darkness, disorder, destruction, death — or, in a word, chaos. 

The Persian system of thought (Manicheism), which is more 
pronouncedly dualistic, no more identifies material nature with evil 
than does the Egyptian gnosis. The natural world contains the 


element of light, which proceeds from the divine kingdom of the 
good ; this element is manifested in the phenomena of light and 
is also present in vegetable and animal life. The highest godhead is 
imagined by the Manicheans in no other form than that of light. 
None of these ' Oriental ' systems, then, are guilty of the 
meaningless identification of evil with material nature as such. 
But the contention that there is evil in the material nature of the 
world and of man would be granted by all the earnest thinkers both 
of the East and the West. This truth does not depend upon any 
metaphysical conception of matter and nature. We ourselves 
share in material nature and can know from our own inner 
experience in what respect nature can, and in what respect it 
cannot, satisfy the demands of the spirit. 


In spite of Plotinus's well-known assertion to the contrary, 
the normal man of the highest degree of spiritual development is 
not in the least ashamed of being a corporeal or material entity. 
No one is ashamed of having an extended body of a definite shape, 
colour, and weight ; that is, we are not ashamed of all that we 
have in common with a stone, a tree, a piece of metal. It is only 
in relation to characteristics we have in common with beings 
which approach us most nearly and belong to the kingdom of 
nature contiguous to us, that we have the feeling of shame and of 
inner opposition. And this feeling shows that it is when we are 
essentially in contact with the material life of the world and may 
be actually submerged by it, that we must wrench ourselves away 
from and rise above it. The feeling of shame is excited neither 
by that part of our corporeal being which has no direct relation 
to the spirit at all (such as the above-mentioned material qualities 
which the spirit has in common with inanimate objects), nor by 
that part of the living organism which serves as the chief expression 
of the specifically human rational life — the head, the face, the 
hands, etc. The object of shame is only that part of our material 
being which, though immediately related to the spirit, since it can 
inwardly affect it, is not an expression or an instrument of the 
spiritual life, but is, on the contrary, a means whereby the pro- 
cesses of purely animal life seek to drag the human spirit down 


into their sphere, to master and overpower it. The reaction of 
the spiritual principle, which finds an immediate expression in the 
feeling of shame, is evoked by material life thus encroaching upon 
the rational being of man and seeking to make him into a passive 
instrument of or a useless appendage to the physical process. The 
rational affirmation of a certain moral norm assumes psychologically 
the form of fear to violate it or of sorrow at having violated it 
already. The norm logically presupposed by the feeling of shame, 
is, when expressed in its most general form, as follows : the animal 
life in man must be subordinate to the spiritual. This judgment is 
apodictically certain, for it is a correct deduction from fact and is 
based on the logical law of identity. The very fact of man's 
shame at being merely animal proves that he is not a mere animal, 
but is also something else and something higher ; for if he were 
on the same or on a lower level, shame would be meaningless. 
Looking at the matter from the formal side alone it cannot be 
doubted that clear consciousness is better than blind instinct, that 
spiritual self-control is better than the surrender to the physical 
process. And if man unites in himself two different elements 
related as the higher and the lower, the demand for the subordina- 
tion of the latter to the former follows from the very nature of the 
case. The fact of shame is independent of individual, racial, and 
other peculiarities ; the demand contained in it is of a universal 
character ; and this, in conjunction with the logical necessity of 
that demand, makes it in the full sense of the term a moral principle. 


Man, like the animals, participates in the life of the universe. 
The essential diiFerence between the two lies simply in the manner 
of the participation. The animal, being endowed with conscious- 
ness, shares inwardly and psychically in the processes of nature 
which hold it under their sway. It knows which of them are 
pleasant or unpleasant, it instinctively feels what is detrimental to 
itself or to the species. But this is true only with reference to 
the environment which immediately affects the animal at a given 
time. The world process as a whole does not exist for the animal 
soul. It can know nothing of the reasons and ends of that process, 
and its participation in it is purely passive or instrumental. Man, 


on the other hand, passes judgment on the part he takes in the 
world process, both with reference to the given events that afFect 
him as psychological motives, and to the general principle of all 
activity. That principle is the idea of worth or of lack of worth, 
of good or of evil, and it can itself become the ground or the 
motive of human activity. This higher consciousness or inward 
self-valuation places man in a definite relation to the world process 
as a whole, the relation, namely, of actively participating in its 
purpose ; for in determining all his actions by the idea of the good, 
man shares in the universal life only in so far as its purpose is the 
good. But since this higher consciousness as a fact grows out of 
the material nature and exists, so to speak, at its expense, that lower 
nature or the animal soul in man is naturally opposed to it. There 
thus arise two conflicting tendencies in our life — the spiritual and 
the carnal.^ The spiritual principle, as it immediately appears to 
our present consciousness, is a distinct tendency or process in our 
life, directed towards realising in the whole of our being the 
rational idea of the good. Likewise the carnal principle with 
which in our inner experience we are concerned, is not the 
physical organism nor even the animal soul as such, but merely a 
tendency excited in that soul, and opposed to the higher conscious- 
ness, seeking to overpower and to drown in the material process 
the beginnings of spiritual life. 

In this case material nature is indeed evil, for it tries to destroy 
that which is worthy of being and which contains the possibility 
of something different from and better than the material life. 
Not in itself, but only in this bad relation to the spirit, man's 
material nature is what in scriptural terminology is called the flesh. 

The idea of flesh' must not be confused with the idea of ' body.' 
Even from the ascetic point of view body is the temple of the 
spirit ; bodies may be 'spiritual,' ' glorified,' ' heavenly,' but ' flesh 
and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.'^ Flesh is 
excited animality, animality that breaks loose from its bounds and 

' This a a fact of our inner experience, and neither its psychological reality nor its 
ethical significance depend upon the metaphysical or any other view which may be 
taken of the essence of spirit and matter. 

' Sometimes in the Scriptures the word ' flesh ' is used in the wide sense of material 
being in general: e.g. 'The word became flesh,' i.e. became a physical event, which did 
not prevent the incarnate Word from being a purely spiritual and sinless God-man. But 
usually the terms flesh and fleshly are used in the Scriptures in the bad sense of material 


ceases to be the matter or the hidden (potential) foundation of the 
spiritual life — as the animal life ought to be both on its physical 
and on its mental side. 

At the elementary stages of his development man is a 
spiritual being potentially rather than actually ; and it is just 
this potentiality of a higher spiritual life, manifested as self- 
consciousness and self-control in opposition to blind and un- 
controlled physical nature, that is endangered by fleshly lust. 
Flesh, i.e. matter which has ceased to be passive and is striving 
for independence and infinity, seeks to attract the spiritual power 
to itself, to drag it in and absorb it in itself, increasing its own 
power at its expense. This is possible because, as incarnate, as 
actually manifested in the concrete man, spirit, or rather the 
life of spirit, is only a transformation of material existence 
(more immediately, of the animal soul), although in their ideal 
essence spirit and matter are heterogeneous. Regarded con- 
cretely, spiritual and material being are two kinds of energy 
which can be transformed into one another — just as mechanical 
motion can be transformed into heat and vice versa. The 
flesh {i.e. the animal soul as such) is strong only in the weakness 
of the spirit and lives only by its death. Therefore, for the 
spirit to preserve itself and to increase in power, the flesh must 
be subdued and transferred from the actual to the potential 
state. This is the real meaning of the moral law that flesh 
must be subordinate to the spirit, and the true basis of all moral 


The moral demand to subordinate tlie flesh to the spirit 
conflicts with the actual striving of the flesh to subject the 
spirit to itself. Consequently the ascetic principle has a double 
aspect. It requires in the first place that the spiritual life should 
be safeguarded from the encroachments of the flesh, and secondly, 
that the animal life should be made merely the potentiality or 
the matter of the spirit. Owing to the intimate inner con- 

nature which violates its due relation to the spirit, is opposed to and exclusive of it. 
Such terminology is found both in the Nev? and in the Old Testament ; e.g. " My spirit 
shall not dwell in these men for they are flesh." 


nection and constant interaction between the spiritual and the 
carnal aspects of the human being as a whole, these two 
demands — the preservation of the spirit from the flesh and the 
realisation of the spirit in the flesh — cannot be fulfilled separately, 
but inevitably pass into one another. In actual life spirit can 
defend itself against the encroachments of the flesh only at the 
expense of the latter, that is, by being partially realised in it ; at 
the same time the realisation of the spirit is only possible on the 
condition of its constantly defending itself against the continued 
attempts of the flesh to destroy its independence. 

The three chief moments in this process are : (i) the 
distinction which the spirit inwardly draws between itself and the 
flesh ; (2) the struggle of the spirit for its independence ; (3) the 
supremacy achieved by the spirit over nature or the annihilation 
of the evil carnal principle as such. The first moment, which 
is characteristic of man in contradistinction to animals, is directly 
given in the feeling of shame. The third, being the consequence 
of the moral perfection already attained, cannot at the present 
stage be the direct object of the moral demand or rule. It is 
useless to confront even a moral man, while he is still imperfect, 
with the categorical imperative "become at once immortal and 
incorruptible ! " Thus only the second moment is left for ethics, 
and our moral principle may be more closely defined as follows : 
subordinate the fiesh to the spirit^ in so far as it is necessary for the 
dignity and the independence of the latter. Hoping finally for a 
complete mastery over the physical forces in yourself and in nature 
as a whole, take for your immediate and binding purpose not to be, 
at any rate, the bondman of rebellious matter or chaos. 

Flesh is existence that is not self-contained, that is wholly 
directed outwards ; it is emptiness, hunger, and insatiability ; it 
is lost in externality and ends in actual disruption. In contradis- 
tinction to it, spirit is existence determined inwardly, self-contained 
and self-possessed. Its outward expression is due to its own 
spontaneity, and does not cause it to become external or to be 
lost and dissolved in externality. Hence self-preservation of the 
spirit is, above all things, the preservation of its self-control. 
This is the main point of all asceticism. 

The human body, in its anatomic structure and physiological 
functions, has no moral significance of its own. It may be the 


expression and the instrument both of the flesh and of the 
spirit. Hence the moral struggle between these two aspects ot 
our being takes place in the domain of the bodily or the organic 
life as well, and assumes the form of a struggle for the mastery 
over the body. 


With regard to the corporeal life our moral task consists in 
not being passively determined by fleshly desires, especially in 
reference to the two most important functions of our organism — 
nutrition and reproduction. 

By way of preliminary exercise, which in itself, however, has 
no moral value, it is important for the spirit to acquire power 
over such functions of our animal organism as are not directly 
related to the 'lusts of the flesh' — namely, over breathing and 

Breathing is the fundamental condition of Hfe and the 
constant means of communication between our body and its 
environment. For the power of the spirit over the body it is 
desirable that this fundamental function should be under the 
control of the human will. Consequently there arose long 
ago and everywhere different ascetic practices with regard to 
breathing. The practice and theory of breathing exercises is 
found among the Indian hermits, among the sorcerers of ancient 
and more recent times, among, the monks of Mount Athos and 
similar monasteries, in Swedenborg, and, in our own day, in 
Thomas Lake-Harris and Laurence Oliphant. The mystical 
details of the matter have nothing to do with moral philosophy. 
I will therefore content myself with a few general remarks. A 
certain control of the will over breathing is required by ordinary 
good manners. For ascetic purposes one merely goes further in 
this direction. By constant exercise it is easy to learn not to 
breathe through the mouth either when awake or when asleep ; 
the next stage is to learn to suppress breathing altogether for a 
longer or shorter time.^ The power acquired over this organic 

1 I mean normal sleep ; abnormal will be dealt with further on. 

■•^ The so-called ' nostril breathing,' and also complete stoppage of breathing, used 
to be, and in places still is zealously practised by Orthodox ascetics, as one of the 
conditions of the so-called ' meditation.' 



function undoubtedly increases the strength of the spirit and 
gives it a secure foundation for further ascetic achievements. 

Sleep is a temporal break in the activity of the brain and of 
the nervous system — the direct physiological instruments of the 
spirit — and it therefore wrealcens the tie betweeri the spiritual 
and the bodily life. It is important that the spirit should not 
in this case play a purely passive part. If sleep is caused by 
physical causes, the spirit must be able, for motives of its own, 
to wrard it oiF, or to interrupt sleep that has already begun. 
The very difficulty of this task, which is undoubtedly a possible 
one, shows its importance. The power to overcome sleep and 
to wake at will is a necessary demand of spiritual hygiene. 
Moreover, sleep has another aspect, which distinguishes it from 
breathing and other organic functions that are in the moral 
sense indifferent, and connects it with nutrition and reproduction. 
Like the two latter functions sleep may be misused to the 
advantage of the carnal and to the detriment of the spiritual 
life. The inclination to excessive sleep in itself shows the 
predominance of the material or the passive principle j a sur- 
render to this inclination and actual abuse of sleep undoubtedly 
weaken the spirit and strengthen the lusts of the flesh. This 
is the reason why in the history of ascetic practices — for 
instance in Christian monasticism — struggle with sleep plays 
so important a part. Of course, the loosening of the bond 
between the spiritual and the corporeal life (or more exactly 
between the conscious and the instinctive life) may be of two 
kinds : sleepers must be distinguished from dreamers. But as a 
general rule a special faculty to dream significant and prophetic 
dreams indicates a degree of spiritual power that has been already 
developed by ascetic practices — struggle with the pleasure of 
carnal sleep among them. 


In animals the predominance of matter over form is due to 
excess of food, as can be clearly seen in caterpillars among the 
lower, and fattened pigs among the higher, animals.^ In man the 
same cause (excess of food) leads to a predominance of the animal 

' See Krasota v prindit (Beauty in Nature) by the present author. 


life, or the flesh, over the spirit. This is why abstinence in food 
and drink — fasting — has always and everywhere been one of the 
fundamental demands of ethics. Abstinence has reference, in 
the first place, to the quantity — with regard to which there can be 
no general rule — and secondly, to the quality of food. In this 
last respect the rule has always and everywhere been abstinence 
from animal food and especially from meat (i.e. from the flesh of 
warm-blooded animals). The reason is that meat is more easily 
and completely converted into blood, and increases the energy of 
the carnal life more powerfully and rapidly than other foods do.^ 
Abstinence from flesh food can unquestionably be affirmed as a 
universal rule. Objections to it cannot stand the test of criticism, 
and have long ago been disposed of both by ethics and by natural 
science. There was a time when eating raw or cooked human 
flesh was regarded as normal.^ From the ascetic point of view 
abstinence from meat (and animal food in general) is doubly 
useful, first, because it weakens the force of the carnal life, and 
secondly, because the hereditary habit has developed a natural 
craving for such food, and abstinence from it exercises the will 
at the expense of material inclinations and thus heightens the 
spiritual energy. 

As to drinking, the simplest good sense forbids excessive use 
of strong drinks that leads to the loss of reason. The ascetic 
principle requires, of course, more than this. Speaking generally, 
wine heightens the energy of the nervous system, and, through 
it, of the psychical fife. At our stage of spiritual development 
the soul is still dominated by carnal motives, and all that excites 
and increases the nervous energy in the service of the soul goes 
to strengthen this predominant carnal element, and is therefore 
highly injurious to the spirit ; so that here complete abstinence 
from wine and strong drink is necessary. But at the higher 

' Another moral motive for abstaining from meat food is not ascetic but altruistic, 
namely, the extension to animals of the law of love or pity. This motive is pre- 
dominant in the ethics of Buddhism and the ascetic one in the Christian Church. 

' According to the Biblical teaching the food of the normal human being before the 
Fall consisted solely of raw fruits and herbs. This is still the rule for the strictest 
monastic fast, both in the East and in the West (the trappists). Between this extreme 
and the light Roman Catholic fast for the laity there are many degrees which have a 
natural foundation {e.g. the distinction between the warm- and the cold-blooded animals, 
owing to which lish is regarded as a food to be taken during fasts) but involve no 
question of principle and have no universal signiiicance. 


stages of moral life which were sometimes attained even in the 
pagan world — for instance by Socrates (see Plato's Symposium) — 
the energy of the organism serves the spiritual rather than the 
carnal purposes. In that case the increase of nervous energy (of 
course within the limits compatible with bodily health) heightens 
the activity of the spirit and therefore, in a certain measure, may 
be harmless or even directly useful. There can be here only one 
absolute and universal rule to preserve spiritual sobriety and a clear 

The most important and decisive significance in the struggle 
of the spirit with the flesh in the physiological sphere belongs to 
the sexual function. The element of moral _wrong (the sin of 
the flesh) is not to be found of course in the physical fact of 
childbirth (and conception) which is, on the contrary, a certain 
redemption of the sin — but only in the unlimited and blind desire 
(lust of the flesh, concupiscentia) for an external, animal, and 
material union with another person (in reality or imagination), a 
union taken to be an end in itself, an independent object of en- 
joyment. The predominance of flesh over spirit expresses itself 
most strongly, clearly, and permanently in the carnal union of two 
persons. It is not for nothing that the immediate feeling of 
shame is connected precisely with this act. To stifle or to 
pervert its testimony ; after many thousands of years of inward 
and outward development, and from the heights of a refined in- 
telligence to pronounce good that which even the simple feeling of 
the savage acknowledges to be wrong — this is, indeed, a disgrace 
to humanity and a clear proof of our demoralisation. The actual 
or the supposed necessity of a certain act for other purposes can- 
not be a sufficient reason for judging of its essential quality as 
such. In some diseases it may be necessary to take poison, but 
that necessity is itself an anomaly from the hygienic point of 

The moral question with regard to the sexual function is in 
the first place the question of one's inner relation to it, of passing 

1 At the present moral level of humanity the mastery of the carnal desires is the 
rule, and the predominance of spiritual motives the exception, and one not to be de- 
pended upon ; so that total abstinence from strong drinks and all other stimulants may 
well be preached virithout any practical disadvantage. But this is a pedagogical and pro- 
phylactic question involving no moral principle. 


judgment upon it as such. How are we inwardly to regard this 
fact from the point of view of the final norm, of the absolute 
good — are we to approve of it or to condemn it ? Which path 
must we choose and follow in respect to it : to affirm and develop 
or to deny, limit, and finally to abolish it ? The feeling of shame 
and the voice of conscience in each concrete case definitely and 
clearly give the second answer, and all that is left for the moral 
philosophy to do is to give it the form of a universal rational 
principle. The carnal means of reproduction is for man an evil ; 
it expresses the predominance of the senseless material process 
over the self-control of the spirit ; it is contrary to the dignity of 
man, destructive of human love and life. Our moral relation to 
this fact must be absolutely negative. We must adopt the path 
that leads to its limitation and abolition j how and when it will 
be abolished in humanity as a whole or even in ourselves is a 
question that has nothing to do with ethics. The entire trans- 
formation of our carnal life into spiritual life does not as an event 
He within our power, for it is connected with the general con- 
ditions of the historical and cosmical process. It cannot therefore 
be the object of moral duty, rule, or law. What is binding upon 
us, and what has moral significance, is our inner relation to this 
fundamental expression of the carnal life. We must regard it as 
an evil, be determined not to submit to that evil, and, so far as in 
us lies, conscientiously carry out this determination. From this 
point of view we may of course judge our external actions, but 
we may only do so because we know their connection with their 
inner moral conditions ; other people's actions in this sphere we 
may not judge — we may only judge their principles. As a 
principle the affirmation of the carnal relation of the sexes is in 
any case an evil. Man's final acceptance of the kingdom of 
death which is maintained and perpetuated by carnal repro- 
duction deserves absolute condemnation. Such is the positive 
Christian point of view which decides this all-important ques- 
tion according to the spirit and not according to the letter, 
and consequently without any external exclusiveness. " He 
that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Marriage is 
approved and sanctified, child-bearing is blessed, and celibacy 
is praised as ' the condition of the angels.' But this very de- 
signation of it as angelic seems to suggest a third and higher 


path — the divine. For man in his ultimate destiny is higher 
than the angels.^ 

If the Divine Wisdom, according to its wont, brings forth 
out of evil a greater good and uses our carnal sins for the sake of 
perfecting humanity by means of new generations, this, of course, 
tends to its glory and to our comfort, but not to our justification. 
It treats in exactly the same way all other evils, but this fact 
cancels neither the distinction between good and evil nor the 
obligatoriness of the former for us. Besides, the idea that the 
preaching of sexual abstinence, however energetic and successful, 
may prematurely stop the propagation of the human race and lead 
to its annihilation is so absurd that one may justly doubt the 
sincerity of those who profess to hold it. It is not likely that 
any one can seriously fear this particular danger for humanity. 
So long as the change of generations is necessary for the develop- 
ment of the human kind, the taste for bringing that change about 
will certainly not disappear in men. But in any case, the moment 
when all men will finally overcome the fleshly lust and become 
entirely chaste — even if that moment, per impossibik, came to- 
morrow — will be the end of the historical process and the begin- 
ning of 'the life to come' for all humanity; so that the very 
idea of child-bearing coming to an end 'too soon' is absolute 
nonsense, invented by hypocrites. As if any one, in surrendering 
to the desire of the flesh, had ever thought of safeguarding thereby 
the future of humanity ! * 


All the rules of ascetic morality in the sphere of the bodily 
life — to acquire power over breathing and sleep, to be temperate in 
food and to abstain from fleshly lust — have essentially an inward 
and morally psychological character, as rules for the will; but 
owing to the difference in their objects they do not stand in the 

1 See SmyslUubvi {The Meaning of Love) and also Zhimnennaya drama Platona {The 
Drama of Plato's Life). 

2 I am not speaking here of the marriage union in its highest spiritual sense, which 
has nothing to do either with the sin of the flesh or with child-bearing, but is the 
pattern of the most perfect union between beings : " This is a great mystery j but I 
speak concerning Christ and the Church." Concerning this mystical meaning of 
marriage see The Meaning of Love, 


same relation to the psychological side of the carnal life. The 
first and partly the second rule (with regard to breathing and 
sleep) have for their object purely physiological functions which 
are not, as such, hostile to the spirit, nor a source of danger to it. 
The spirit simply wants to control them for the sake of increas- 
ing its own power for the more important struggle before it. 
Nutrition and reproduction— and consequently the ascetic rules 
with regard to them — have a different character. The positive 
feeling of pleasure which accompanies these functions may 
become an end for the will, bind the spiritual forces and draw 
them into the stream of the carnal life. The latter of the two 
functions is particularly incompatible (under ordinary conditions) 
with the preservation of spiritual self-control. On the other 
h^nd, breathing and sleep are merely processes in our own 
organism, while nutrition and reproduction are connected with 
external objects which, apart from their actual existence and 
relation to us, may, as subjective presentations, dominate the 
imagination and the will and encroach on the domain of the 
spirit ; hence the necessity of ascetic struggle with the inward 
sins of the flesh, still more shameful than the outward. An 
epicure whose mouth waters at the very idea of recherche dishes, 
no doubt falls away from human dignity more than a person 
who indulges himself at the table without particularly thinking 
about the matter. 

In this sense the ascetic attitude to the nutritive and the 
sexual functions belongs to the psychological and not to the 
physiological side of the struggle between the flesh and the 
spirit. The struggle in this case is not against the functions of 
the organism as such, but against the states of the soul — gluttony, 
drunkenness, sensuality. These sinful propensities, which may 
become passions and vices, are on a level with evil emotions such 
as anger, envy, cupidity, etc. The latter passions, which are evil 
and not merely shameful, fall within the province of altruistic 
and not of ascetic morality, for they involve a certain relation 
to one's neighbours. But there are some general rules for the 
inner, morally-psychological struggle with sinful inclinations as 
such, whether they refer to other men or to our own material 

The inner process in and through which an evil desire takes 


possession of the self has three main stages. To begin with, 
there arises in the mind the idea of some object or some action 
which corresponds to one of the bad propensities of our nature. 
This idea causes the spirit to reflect upon it. At that first stage 
a simple act of will rejecting such reflection is sufficient. The 
spirit must simply show its firmness or impermeability to foreign 
elements.! jf this is not done, the reflection develops into an 
imaginary picture of this or that nature — sensual, vindictive, 
vain, and so on.^ This picture forces the mind to attend to it, 
and cannot be got rid of by a mere negative act of will ; it is 
necessary to draw the mind away by thinking in the opposite 
direction (for instance, by thinking about death). But if at this 
second stage the mind, instead of being drawn away from the 
picture of sin, dwells upon it and identifies itself with it, 
then the third moment inevitably comes when not only the 
mind, secretly impelled by the evil desire, but the whole spirit 
gives itself up to the sinful thought and enjoys it. Neither a 
rejecting act of will nor a distracting reflection of the mind 
can then save the spirit from bondage — practical moral work 
is necessary to re-establish the inner equilibrium in the whole 
man. Otherwise the victory of the sinful emotion over the 
spirit will become a passion and a vice. Man will lose his 
rational freedom, and moral rules will lose their power over 

' Ecclesiastical writers describe this rule as " dashing the babes of Babylon against 
the stones," following the allegorical line in the Psalms : " O daughter of Babylon who 
art to be destroyed ; happy shall he be that taketh and dashes thy little ones against 
the stones" (Babylon=the kingdom of sin; a babe of Babylon = a sin conceived in 
thought and as yet undeveloped ; stone = the firmness of faith). 

^ When one is young and has a lively imagination and little spiritual experience, 
the evil thought develops very rapidly, and, reaching absurd proportions, calls forth a 
strong moral reaction. Thus you think of a person you dislike, and experience a 
slight emotion of injury, indignation, and anger. If you do not immediately dash this 
'babe of Babylon' against the stones, your imagination, obedient to the evil passion, will 
immediately draw a vivid picture before you. You meet your enemy and put him into 
an awkward position. All his worthlessness is exposed. You experience the velleitas of 
magnanimity, but the passion is roused and overwhelms you. At first you keep within 
the limits of good breeding. You make subtly stinging remarks which, however, soon 
become more stinging than subtle j then you ' insult him verbally,' and then you • assault 
him.' Your devilishly strong fist deals victorious blows. The scoundrel is felled to the 
ground, the scoundrel is killed, and you dance on his corpse like a cannibal. One can 
go no further — nothing is left but to cross oneself and renounce it all in disgust. 


Ethics is the hygiene and not the therapeutics of the 
spiritual life. 


The supremacy of the spirit over the flesh is necessary in 
order to preserve the moral dignity of man. The principle of 
true asceticism is the principle of spiritual self-preservation. 
But the inner self-preservation of a separate man, of a being who, 
though spiritual [i.e. possessing reason and will), is nevertheless 
limited or relative in his separateness, cannot be the absolute good or 
the supreme and final end of life. The slavery of man to fleshly 
desires in the wide sense of the term, i.e. to all that is senseless 
and contrary to reason, transforms him into the worst species 
of animal, and is, no doubt, evil. In this sense no one can 
honestly argue against asceticism, that is, against self-restraint as 
a principle. Every one agrees that incapacity to resist animal 
instincts is a weakness of the spirit, shameful for a human being, 
and therefore bad. The capacity for such resistance or self- 
restraint is then a good, and must be accepted as a norm from 
which definite rules of conduct may be deduced. On this point, 
as on others, moral philosophy merely explains and elaborates the 
testimony of ordinary human consciousness. Apart from any 
principles, gluttony, drunkenness, lewdness immediately call forth 
disgust and contempt, and abstinence from these vices meets with 
instinctive respect, i.e. is acknowledged as a good. This good, 
however, taken by itself, is not absolute. The power of the spirit 
over the flesh, or the strength of will acquired by rightful abstin- 
ence, may be used for immoral purposes. A strong will may be evil. 
A man may suppress his lower nature in order to boast or to pride 
himself on his superior power ; such a victory of the spirit is not 
a good. It is still worse if the self-control of the spirit and the 
concentration of the will are used to the detriment of other people, 
even apart from the purposes of low gain. Asceticism has been, 
and is, successfully practised by men given to spiritual pride, 
hypocrisy, and vanity, and even by vindictive, cruel, and selfish 
men. According to the general verdict, such an ascetic is in the 
moral sense far inferior to a simple-hearted drunkard or glutton or 
to a kind profligate. Asceticism in itself is not necessarily a good, 


and cannot therefore be the supreme or the absolute principle of 
morality. The true (the moral) ascetic acquires control over the 
flesh, not simply for the salce of increasing the powers of the spirit, 
but for furthering the realisation of the Good, Asceticism which 
liberates the spirit from shameful (carnal) passions only to attach 
it more closely to evil (spiritual) passions is obviously a false or 
immoral asceticism.^ Its true prototype, according to the Christian 
idea, is the devil, who does not eat or drink and remains in celibacy. 
If, then, from the moral point of view we cannot approve of a 
wicked or a pitiless ascetic, it follows that the principle of asceticism 
has only a relative moral significance, namely, that it is conditioned 
by its connection with the principle of altruism, the root of which 
is pity. I now pass to consider this second moral principle. 

^ If the suppression of the flesh is taken not as a means for good or evil but as an 
end in itself, we get a peculiar kind of false asceticism which identifies flesh with the 
physical body, and considers every bodily torment a virtue. Although this false asceticism 
of self-laceration has no evil purpose to begin with, in its further development it easily 
becomes an evil : it either proves to be a slow suicide or becomes a peculiar kind of ' 
sensuality. It would be unwise, however, thus to condemn all cases of self-laceration. 
Natures that have a particularly strong material life may require heroic means for its 
suppression. One mustnot therefore indiscriminately condemn Stylitism, fetters, and other 
similar means of mortifying the flesh that were in use in the heroic times of asceticism. 



It has for a long time been thought — and many are beginning to 
think so again — that the highest virtue or holiness is to be found 
in asceticism and ' mortification of the flesh,' in suppressing natural 
inclinations and affections, in abstinence and freedom from 
passions. We have seen that this ideal undoubtedly contains some 
truth, for it is clear that the higher or the spiritual side of 
man must dominate the lower or the material. The efforts of 
will in this direction are acts of spiritual self-preservation and are 
the first condition of all morality. The first condition^ however, 
cannot be taken to be the ultimate end. Man must strengthen his 
spirit and subordinate his flesh, not because this is the purpose of 
his life, but because it is only when he is free from the bondage to 
blind and evil material desires that he can serve truth and goodness 
in the right way and attain real perfection. 

The rules of abstinence strengthen the spiritual power of the 
man wrho practises them. But in order that the strong spirit 
may have mpral worth — i.e. that it may be good and not evil — it 
must unite the power over its own flesh with a rightful and 
charitable attitude to other beings. History has shown that, apart 
from this condition, the supremacy of the ascetic principle, even 
when combined with a true religion, leads to terrible conse- 
quences. The ministers of the Mediaeval Church, who used to 
torture and burn heretics, Jews, sorcerers and witches, were for the 
most part men irreproachable from the ascetic point of view. But 
the one-sided force of the spirit and the absence of pity made 
them devils incarnate. The bitter fruits of mediaeval asceticism 



sufficiently justify the reaction against it, which, in the sphere of 
moral philosophy, has led to the supremacy of the altruistic principle 
in morality. 

This principle is deeply rooted in .our being in the form of 
the feeling of pity which man has in common with other living 
creatures. If the feeling of shame differentiates man from the 
rest of nature and distinguishes him from other animals, the feel- 
ing of pity, on the contrary, unites him with the whole world of 
the living. It does so in a double sense : in the first place 
because man shares it with all other living creatures, and secondly 
because all living creatures can and must be the objects of that 
feeling to man. 


That the natural basis of our moral relation to others is the 
feeling of pity or compassion, and not the feeling of unity or 
solidarity in general, is a truth which is independent of any 
system of metaphysics ^ and in no way involves a pessimistic view 
of the world and of life. As is well known, Schopenhauer main- 
tains that the ultimate nature of the universe is Will, and will is 
essentially a state of dissatisfection (for satisfaction implies that 
there is nothing to wish for). Hence dissatisfaction or suffering 
is the fundamental and positive determination of all existence in 
its inward aspect, and the inner moral bond between beings is 
compassion. But altogether apart from this doubtful theory 
— and the equally doubtful calculations of Hartmann, who tries 
to prove that the amount of pain in humanity is incomparably 
greater than the amount of pleasure — we find that from the nature 
of the case the only basis of the moral relation to other beings is, 
as a matter of principle^ to be found in pity or compassion, and 
certainly not in co-rejoicing or co-pleasure. 

Human delight, pleasure, and joy may of course be innocent 
and even positively good — and in that case sharing in them has 
a positive moral character. But, on the other hand, human 
pleasures may be, and often are, immoral. A wicked and vindictive 
man finds pleasure in insulting and tormenting those near him, 
rejoices in their humiliation, delights in the harm he has done. 

' Such as the doctrine of Buddhism or Schopenhauer's ' Philosophy of the Will.' 


A sensual man finds the chief joy of life in profligacy ; a cruel man 
in killing animals or even human beings ; a drunkard is happy 
when he is stupefying himself with drink, etc. In all these cases the 
feeling of pleasure cannot be separated from the bad actions which 
produce it, and sometimes, indeed, the pleasure gives an immoral 
character to actions which would in themselves be indifferent. 
Thus when a soldier in war kills an enemy at the word of command 
from no other motive than ' his duty as a soldier,' no one would 
accuse him of immoral cruelty, whatever our attitude to war might 
be. But it is a different thing if he finds pleasure in killing and 
bayonets a man with relish. In more simple cases the thing is 
clearer still ; thus it is obvious that the immorality of drunkenness 
consists not in the external action of swallowing certain drinks but 
in the inner pleasure which a man finds in artificially stupefying 

But if a certain pleasure is in itself immoral, the participation 
in it by another person (co-rejoicing, co-pleasure) also receives an 
immoral character. The fact is that positive participation in a 
pleasure implies the approval of that pleasure. Thus in sharing 
the drunkard's delight in his favourite pleasure I approve of 
drunkenness ; in sharing somebody's joy at successful revenge 
I approve of vindictiveness. And since these pleasures are bad 
pleasures, those who sympathise with them approve of what is 
evil, and consequently are themselves guilty of immorality. Just 
as participation in a crime is itself regarded as a crime, so 
sympathy with vicious pleasure or delight must itself be pro- 
nounced vicious. And indeed sympathy with an evil pleasure 
not only involves an approval of it, but also presupposes the same 
bad propensity in the sympathiser. Only a drunkard delights in 
another person's drunkenness, only a vindictive man rejoices in 
another's revenge. Participation in the pleasures or joys of others 
may then be good or bad according to their object ; and if it may 
be immoral, it cannot as such be the basis of the moral relation. 

The same thing cannot be said about suffering and compas- 
sion. According to the very idea of it, suffering is a state in 
which the will of the one who suffers has no direct and positive 
part. When we speak of ' voluntary suffering,' we mean, not 
that suffering is desired as such, but that the object of will is 
that which makes suffering necessary, in other words, that the 


object of will is the good which is attained by sufFering. A 
martyr undergoes torments, not for their own sake, but because 
in the circumstances they are a necessary consequence of his 
faith and a means to higher glory and to the kingdom of 
heaven. On the other hand, suffering may be deserved, i.e. 
its cause may lie in bad actions ; but the suffering as such is 
distinct from its cause and contains no moral guilt ; on the 
contrary, it is regarded as its expiation and redemption. Though 
drunkenness is a sin, no moralist, however stern, would pronounce 
the headache that results from drinking to be a sin also. For 
this reason participation in the suffering of others (even when 
they deserve it) — i.e. pity or compassion — can never be immoral. 
In commiserating with one who suffers I do not in the least 
approve of the evil cause of his suffering.^ Pity for the criminal's 
suffering does not mean approval or justification of his crime. 
On the contrary, the greater my pity for the sad consequences of 
a man's sin, the greater my condemnation of the sin. 

Participation in the pleasures of others may always have an 
element of self-interest. Even in the case of an old man sharing 
the joy of a child doubt may be felt with regard to the altruistic 
nature of his sentiment ; for in any case it is pleasant for the old 
man to refresh the memory of his own . happy childhood. On 
the contrary, all genuine feeling of regret at t4ie suffering of 
others, whether moral or physical, is painful for the person who 
experiences that feeling, and is therefore opposed to his egoism. 
This is clear from the fact that sincere grief about others disturbs 
our personal joy, damps our mirth, that is, proves to be in- 
compatible with the state of selfish satisfaction. Genuine com- 
passion or pity can have no selfish motives and is purely 
altruistic, while the feeling of co-rejoicing or co-pleasure is, from 
the moral point of view, a mixed and indefinite feeling. 

^ An apparent instance to the contrary is the case of a person sympathising with 
another who is grieved at the failure of his crime. But, in truth, even in this case in so 
far as sympathy arises solely out of pity it does not in the least refer to the bad cause 
of the grief, in no way presupposes an approval of it, and therefore is good and innocent. 
But if, in being sorry for the murderer who missed his aim, I also deplore his failure, 
the immorality- will lie not in my pity for the criminal, but in my lack of pity for 
his victim. Speaking generally, when several persons prove to be at one in some 
wrong, the moral condemnation refers not to the fact of their solidarity, but only to 
the bad object of it. 



There is another reason why participation in the joys or 
pleasures of others cannot in itself have the same fundamental 
importance for ethics as the feeHng of pity or compassion. 
The demand of reason is that morality should only be based 
upon such feelings as always contain an impulse for definite 
action and, being generalised, give rise to a definite moral 
principle or principles. But pleasure or joy is the end of action ; 
in it the purpose of the activity is reached, and participation in 
the pleasure of others as well as the experience of one's own 
pleasure contains no impulse and no ground for further action. 
Pity, on the contrary, directly urges us to act in order to help a 
fellow-being and to save him from suffering. The action may 
be purely inward — thus pity for my enemy may prevent me 
from insulting or injuring him — but in any case it is an action, 
and not a passive state like joy or pleasure. Of course, I may find 
inward satisfaction in the fact that I did not hurt my neighbour, 
but this can only happen after the act of will has taken place. 
Similarly in the case of rendering help to a fellow-being who is 
in pain or in need, the pleasure or joy resulting therefrom, both 
for him and for the person who helps him, is only the final 
consequence and the culmination of the altruistic act, and not 
its source or its ground. If I see or hear that some one is 
suffering, one of two things happens. Either that other person's 
suffering calls forth in me also a certain degree of pain and I 
experience pity — in which case that feeling is a direct and 
sufficient reason for me to render active help. Or, if another's 
suffering does not rouse pity in me, or does not rouse it 
sufficiently to incite me to act, the idea of the pleasure which 
would ensue from my action would obviously be still less likely 
to do so. It is clear that an abstract and conditioned thought 
of a future mental state cannot possibly have more effect than 
the immediate contemplation or concrete representation of actual 
physical and mental states which call for direct action. There- 
fore the true ground or the producing cause {causa efficiens) of 
every altruistic action is the perception or the idea of another 
person's suffering as it actually exists at the moment, and not 


the thought of the pleasure which may arise in the future as 
the result of the benevolent act. Of course, if a person decides 
out of pity to help a fellow-being in distress, he may, if he 
have time to do so, imagine — especially on the ground of the 
remembered experiences in the past — the joy he will thereby give 
to himself and to that other person. But to take this con- 
comitant and accidental thought for the true motive of action is 
contrary both to logic and to psychological experience. 

On the one hand, then, participation in the actual joys and 
pleasures of others cannot from the very nature of the case contain 
either a stimulus for action or a rule of conduct, for in these 
states satisfaction is already attained. On the other hand, a con- 
ditional representation of future pleasures, which are supposed to 
follow upon the removal of the suffering, can only be a secondary 
and an indirect addition to the actual feeling of compassion or 
pity which moves us to do active good. Consequently it is this 
feeling alone which must be pronounced to be the true ground 
of altruistic conduct. 

Those who pity the sufferings of others will certainly partici- 
pate in their joys and pleasures when the latter are harmless and 
innocent. But this natural consequence of the moral relation to 
others cannot be taken as the basis of morality. That alone is 
truly good which is good in itself, and therefore always preserves 
its good character, never becoming evil. Therefore the morality 
(or the good) in any given sphere of relations can only be based 
upon such data from which a general and absolute rule of 
conduct may be deduced. Such precisely is the nature of pity 
towards our fellow-beings. To pity all that suffers is always and 
unconditionally good; it is a rule that requires no reservations. 
But participation in the joys and pleasures of others may be 
approved conditionally only, and even when it is laudable it 
contains, as we have seen, no rule of conduct. 


The unquestionable and familiar fact that a distinct individual 
being may, as it were, transcend in feeling the limits of his 
individuality, and respond painfully to the suffering of others, 
experiencing it as if it were his own pain, may appear to some 


minds mysterious and enigmatic. It was regarded as such by the 
philosopher who found in compassion the sole foundation of 

" How is it possible," he asks, " that suffering which is not 
mine should become an immediate motive of my action in the 
same way as my own suffering does ? " " This presupposes," 
he goes on, "that I have to a certain extent identified myself 
with another, and that the barrier between the self and the not 
self has been for the moment removed. It is then only that 
the position of another, his want, his need, his suffering, 
immediately (?) becomes mine. I no longer see him then as he is 
given me in empirical perception — as something foreign and 
indifferent (?) to me, as something absolutely (?) separate from 
me. On the contrary, in compassion it is I who suffer in him, 
although his skin does not cover my nerves. Only through 
such identification can his suffering, his need, become a motive 
for me in a way in which ordinarily only my own suffering can. 
This is a highly mysterious phenomenon — it is a real mystery 
of Ethics, for it is something for which reason cannot directly 
account (? !) and the grounds of which cannot be discovered 
empirically. And yet it is of everyday occurrence. Each has 
experienced it himself and seen it in other people. It happens 
every day before our eyes on a small scale in individual cases 
every time that, moved by an immediate impulse, without 
any further reflection, a man helps another and defends him, 
sometimes risking his own life for the sake of a person whom 
he sees for the first time, thinking of nothing but the obvious 
distress and need of that person. It happens on a large scale when 
a whole nation sacrifices its blood and its property for the sake of 
defending or setting free another, oppressed, nation. For such 
actions to deserve (mconditional moral approval, it is necessary 
that there should be present that mysterious act of compassion 
or of inner identification of oneself with another, without any 
ulterior motives," ^ 

This discussion of the mysterious character of compassion is 
distinguished by literary eloquence more than by philosophic 
truth. The mystery is not to be found in the fact itself, but 

> Schopenhauer, Die heiden GrmdprMeme der Ethik, 2nd ed., Leipzig, i860, 
p. 230. 


is due to a false description, which lays exaggerated emphasis 
on the extreme terms of the relation, and leaves the connecting 
links between them entirely out of account. In his sphere 
Schopenhauer abused the rhetorical method of contrast or 
antithesis quite as much as Victor Hugo did in his. The 
matter is described in such a way as if a given being, absolutely 
separate from another, all of a sudden immediately identified 
itself with that other in the feeling of compassion. This 
would, indeed, be highly mysterious. But, in truth, neither 
the absolute separateness nor the immediate identification of 
which Schopenhauer speaks exists at all. To understand any 
relation one must take first the earliest and most elementary 
instance of it. Take the maternal instinct of animals. When a 
dog defends her puppies or suffers at losing them, where does 
all the mystery of which Schopenhauer speaks come in ? Are 
these puppies something ' foreign and indifferent ' to their mother, 
and 'absolutely separate' from her? Between her and them 
there was from the first a real physical and organic connection, 
clear and obvious to the simplest observation and independent 
of all metaphysics. These creatures were for a time actually a 
part of her own body, her nerves and theirs had been covered by 
one and the same skin, and the very beginning of their existence 
involved a change in her organism, and was painfully reflected 
in her sensations.^ At birth this real organic connection is 
weakened, becomes looser, so to speak, but it is not completely 
severed or replaced by 'absolute separateness.' Therefore the 
participation of a mother in the sufferings of her children is as 
much a natural fact as the pain we feel when we cut a finger 
or dislocate a leg. In a sense, of course, this, too, is mysterious — 
but not in the sense in which the philosopher of compassion 
takes it to be. Now all the other and more complex manifesta- 
tions of the feeling of pity have a similar ground. -All that 
exists, and, in particular, all living beings are connected by the 
fact of their compresence in one and the same world, and by the 
unity of origin j all spring from one common mother — nature, 

1 Certain animals, lilce human mothers, have been observed to sufFer from nausea 
a cottceptu. The maternal feeling established on the physical basis may afterwards like 
all feelings, be diverted from its natural object and transferred to the young of another 
animal that have been substituted for her own. 


of which they are a part ; nowhere do we find the ' absolute 
separateness ' of which Schopenhauer speaks. The natural organic 
connection of all beings as parts of one whole is given in 
experience, and is not merely a speculative idea. Hence the 
psychological expression of that connection — the inner partici- 
pation of one being in the suffering of others, compassion or 
pity — can be understood even from the empirical point of view 
as the expression of the natural and obvious solidarity of all 
that exists. This participation of beings in one another is in 
keeping with the general plan of the universe, is in harmony 
with reason or perfectly rational. What is senseless or irrational 
is the mutual estrangement of beings, their subjective separate- 
ness, contradictory of their objective unity. It is this inner 
egoism and not the mutual sympathy between the diiFerent parts 
of one nature that really is mysterious and enigmatic. Reason 
can give no direct account of it, and its grounds are not to 
be found empirically. 

Absolute separateness is merely affirmed but is not established 
by egoism ; it neither does nor can exist as a fact. On the other 
hand, the mutual connection between beings which finds its 
psychological expression in sympathy or pity is certainly not of 
the nature of immediate identification as Schopenhauer takes it 
to be. When I am sorry for my friend who has a headache the 
feeling of sympathy does not as a rule become a headache. So far 
from my being identified with him even our states remain distinct, 
and I clearly distinguish my head, which does not ache, from his, 
which does. Also, so far as I am aware, it has never happened that a 
compassionate man, who jumps into the water to save another from 
drowning, should take that other person for himself or himself for 
that other. Even a hen — a creature more noted for her maternal 
instinct than for intelligence — clearly understands the distinction 
between herself and her chicks, and, therefore, behaves in relation 
to them in a certain way, which would be impossible if in her 
maternal compassion ' the barrier between the self and the not self 
were removed.' If this were the case, the hen might confuse herself 
with her chickens, and, when hungry, might ascribe that sensation 
to them and start feeding them, although in reality they were 
satisfied and she almost starving ; or, another time, she might feed 
herself at their expense. In truth, in all these real cases of pity, 


the barriers between the being who pities and those whom it pities 
are not removed at all ; they simply prove not to be so absolute 
and impermeable as the abstract reflection of scholastic philosophers 
w^ould make them. 

The removal of barriers between the self and the not self or 
immediate identification is merely a figure of speech and not an 
expression of real fact. Like the vibration of chords that sound 
in unison, so the bond of compassion between living beings is not 
simply identity but harmony of the similar. From this point of 
view, too, the fundamental moral fact of pity or compassion com- 
pletely corresponds to the real nature of things or to the meaning 
of the universe. For the indissoluble oneness of the world is not 
a mere empty unity, but embraces the whole range of determinate 


As befits an ultimate moral principle, the feeling of pity has no 
external limits for its application. Starting with the narrow sphere 
of maternal love, strongly developed even in the higher animals, 
it may, in the case of man, as it gradually becomes wider, pass 
from the family to the clan and the tribe, to the civic com- 
munity, the entire nation, to all humanity, and finally embrace all 
that lives. In individual cases, when confronted with actual pain 
or need, we may actively pity not only every man — though belong- 
ing to a different race or religion — but even every animal ; this is 
beyond dispute and is, indeed, quite usual. Less usual is such a 
breadth of compassion which, without any obvious reason, at once 
embraces in a keen feeling of pity all the multitude of living beings 
in the universe. It is difficult to suspect of artificial rhetoric or 
exaggerated pathos the following description of universal pity as an 
actual mental state — very unlike the state of the so-called 'world- 
woe ' {JVelt5chmer%). " And I was asked what is a pitying heart ? 
And I answered : the glow in a man's heart for all creation, for 
men, for birds, for animals, for demons^ and for creatures of all 
kinds. When he thinks of them or looks upon them, his eyes 
gush with tears. Great and poignant pity possesses him and his 
heart is wrung with suffering, and he cannot bear either to hear 
or to see any harm or grief endured by any creature. And hence 
every hour he prays with tears even for the dumb beasts, and for 


the enemies of truth and those who do him wrong, that God may 
preserve them and have mercy on them ; and for all of the 
crawling kind he prays with great pity which rises up in his heart 
beyond measure so that in that he is made like to God." ^ 

In this description of the fundamental altruistic motive in its 
highest form we find neither 'immediate identification' nor 
' removing the barriers between the self and the not self It 
differs from Schopenhauer's account like living truth from literary 
eloquence. These words of the Christian writer also prove that 
there is no need, as Schopenhauer mistakenly thought, to turn to 
Indian dramas or to Buddhism in order to learn the prayer ' May 
all that lives be free from suffering.' 


The universal consciousness of humanity decidedly pronounces 
pity to be a good thing. A person who manifests this feeling is called 
good i the more deeply he experiences and the more he acts upon 
it, the more good he is considered to be. A pitiless man more than 
any other is called wicked. It does not follow, however, that the 
whole of morality or the essence of all good can be reduced, as it 
often is, to compassion or ' sympathetic feeling.' 

" Boundless compassion to all Hving beings," observes 
Schopenhauer, "is the surest guarantee of moral conduct and 
requires no casuistry. The man who is full of that feeling will be 
certain not to injure any one, not to cause suffering to any one ; all 
his actions will be sure to bear the stamp of truth and mercy. Let 
any one say, 'This man is virtuous, but he knows no compassion,' or 
'He is an unrighteous and wicked man, but he is very compassionate,' 
and the contradiction will be at once apparent."^ These words 
are only true with considerable reservations. There is no doubt 
that pity or compassion is a real basis of morality, but Schopenhauer's 
obvious mistake is in regarding that feeling as the only foundation 
of all morality.* 

^ Tie Sayings of the Holy Father Isaac the Syrian, Hermit and Ascetic, Bishop of the 
City ofNinevy, p. 277. 

^ Die heiden Grundprobleme der Ethik, ind ed., p. 23. 

' It is all the more necessary for me to indicate this important error of the fashionable 
philosopher as I myself was guilty of it when I wrote my dissertation Kritika ot^letchonnih 
natchal [The Critique of Abstract Principles). 


In truth it is only one of the three ultimate principles of 
morality and it has a definite sphere- of application, namely, it 
determines our rightful relation to other beings in our world. Pity 
is the only true foundation of altruism, but altruism and morality 
are not identical : the former is only a part of the latter. It is 
true that ' boundless compassion for all living beings is the surest 
and most secure foundation,' not of moral action in general, as 
Schopenhauer mistakenly affirms, but of moral action in relation 
to other beings who are the object of compassion. This relation 
however, important as it is, does not exhaust the whole of morality. 
Besides the relation to his fellow-men, man stands also in a certain 
relation to his own material nature and to the higher principles 
of all existence, and these relations, too, require to be morally 
determined so that the good in them may be distinguished from 
the evil. A man who is full of pity will certainly not injure or 
cause suffering to any one — that is, he will not injure any one else^ 
but he may very well injure himself by indulging in carnal passions 
which lower his human dignity. In spite of a most compassionate 
heart one may be inclined to profligacy and other low vices, which, 
though not opposed to compassion, are opposed to morality — and 
this fact shows that the two ideas do not coincide. Schopenhauer 
rightly insists that one cannot say, ' This man is malicious and un- 
just, but he is very compassionate ' ; curiously enough, however, he 
forgets that one may, and often has to say, ' So and so is a sensual 
and dissolute man — a profligate, a glutton, a drunkard — but he is 
very kind-hearted ' ; equally familiar is the phrase, ' Although so 
and so lives an exemplary ascetic life, he is pitiless to his neighbours.' 
This means that on the one hand the virtue of abstinence is possible 
apart from pity, and on the other that although strongly developed 
sympathetic feelings — pity, kindness — exclude the possibility of 
evil actions in the narrow sense of the term, i.e. cruel actions 
directly hurtful to others, they do not by any means prevent 
shameful actions. And yet such actions are not morally indifferent 
even from the altruistic point of view. A kind drunkard and 
profligate may be sorry for other people and never wish to hiu-t them, 
yet by his vice he certainly injures not only himself but his family, 
which he may finally ruin without the least intention of doing them 
harm. If then pity does not prevent such conduct, our inward 
opposition to it must be founded upon another aspect of our moral 


nature, namely, upon the feeling of shame. The rules of 
asceticism ^ spring from it in the same way as the rules of altruism 
develop out of the feeling of pity. 


The true essence of pity or compassion is certainly not the 
immediate identification of oneself with another, but the re- 
cognition of the inherent worth of that other — the recognition of 
his right to existence and to possible welfare. When I pity 
another man or animal, I do not confuse myself with him or take 
him for myself and myself for him. I merely see in him a 
creature that is akin and similar to me, with a consciousness like 
mine, and wishing, like I do, to live and to enjoy the good things 
of life. In admitting my own right to the fulfilment of such 
a desire, I admit it in the case of others j being painfully con- 
scious of every violation of this right in relation to me, of every 
injury to myself, I respond in Uke manner to the violation of the 
rights of others, to the injury of others. Pitying myself, I pity 
others. When I see a suffering creature I do not identify or 
confuse it with myself, I merely imagine myself in its place and, 
admitting its likeness to myself, compare its states to my own, 
and, as the phrase is, ' enter into its position.' This equalisation 
(but not identification) between myself and another which im- 
mediately and unconsciously takes place in the feeling of pity, is 
raised by reason to the level of a clear and distinct idea. 

The intellectual content (the idea) of pity or compassion, taken 
in its universality, independently of the subjective mental states 
in which it is manifested — i.e. taken logically and not psychologic- 
ally, — is truth and justice. It is true that other creatures are 
similar to me, and it is just that I should feel about them as I do 
about myself. This position, clear in itself, becomes still more 
clear when tested negatively. When I am pitiless or indifferent 
to others, consider myself at liberty to injure them and do 
not think it my duty to help them, they appear to me not what 
they really are. A being appears as merely a thing, something 

1 It is curious that Schopenhauer admitted and even greatly exaggerated the im- 
portance of asceticism, but for some reason he completely excluded it from his moral 
teaching. It is one of the instances of the incoherent thinking of the famous writer. 


living appears as dead, conscious — as unconscious, what is akin to 
me appears as foreign, and what is like me as absolutely differ- 
ent. The relation in which an object is taken to be not what 
it really is is a direct denial of truth ; and actions that follow 
from it will be unjust. Therefore the opposite relation which is 
subjectively expressed as the inner feeling of sympathy, pity, or 
compassion is, from the objective point of view, expressive of 
truth, and actions following from it will he just. To measure by a 
different measure is acknowledged by all to be an elementary in- 
stance of injustice j but when I am pitiless to others, i.e. treat 
them as soulless and rightless things, and affirm myself as a 
conscious being fully possessed of rights, I evidently measure 
with different measures and crudely contradict truth and justice. 
On the contrary, when I pity others as I do myself, I measure 
with one measure and consequently act in accordance with truth 
and justice. 

In so far as it is a constant quality and a practical principle, 
pitilessness is called egoism. In its pure and unmixed form consist- 
ent egoism does not exist, at any rate not among human beings. 
But in order to understand the general nature of egoism as such, 
it is necessary to characterise it as a pure and unconditional 
principle. Its essence consists in this ; an absolute opposition, 
an impassable gulf is fixed between one's own self and other 
beings. I am everything to myself and must be everything to 
others, but others are nothing in themselves and become some- 
thing only as a means for me. My life and welfare is an end in 
itself, the life and welfare of others are only a means for my 
ends, the necessary environment for my self-assertion. I am the 
centre and the world only a circumference. Such a point of 
view is seldom put forward, but with some reservations it un- 
doubtedly lies at the root of our natural life. Absolute egoists 
are not to be found on earth : every human being appears to feel 
pity at least for some one, every human being sees a fellow-creature 
in some one person at least. But restricted within certain 
limits — usually very narrow ones — egoism manifests itself all 
the more clearly in other, wider spheres. A person who does 
not take up the egoistic attitude towards his own relatives, i.e. 
who includes his family within his self, all the more mercilessly 
opposes this widened self to all that is external to it. A person 


who extends his self — quite superficially as a rule — to include 
his whole nation, adopts the egoistic point of view, with all the 
greater fie;rceness, both for himself and for his nation, in relation 
to other nations and races, etc. The fact that the circle of inner 
solidarity is widened and the egoism is transferred from the in- 
dividual to the family, the nation, and the state is unquestionably 
of great moral significance to the life of humanity, for within a 
given circle selfishness is restricted, outweighed, or even com- 
pletely replaced by humane and moral relations. But this does 
not destroy the principle of egoism in humanity, which consists in 
the absolute inner opposition of oneself and one's own to what is 
other than it — in fixing a gulf between the two. This principle 
is essentially false, for in reality there is not, and there cannot be, 
any such gulf, any absolute opposition. It is clear that exclusive- 
ness, egoism, pitilessness is essentially the same thing as untruth. 
Egoism is in the first place fantastic and unreal^ it aifirms what 
does not and cannot exist. To consider oneself (in the narrow 
or in the wide sense) as the exclusive centre of the universe is at 
bottom as absurd as to believe oneself to be a glass seat or the 
constellation of Ursa Major.^ 

If, then, egoism is condemned by reason as a senseless affirma- 
tion of what is non-existent and impossible, the opposite principle 
of altruism, psychologically based upon the feeling of pity, is 
entirely justified both by reason and by conscience. In virtue of 
this principle the individual person admits that other beings are, 
just like himself, relative centres of being and of living force. 
This is an affirmation of truth, an admission of what truly is. 
From this truth, to which the feeling of pity, roused by other 
beings akin and alike to us, inwardly bears witness in every soul, 
reason deduces a principle or a law with regard to all other beings : 
Do unto others as you would they should do unto you. 

' Theoretical proof of the reality of the external world and of the inner conscious 
life of beings is offered in metaphysics. Moral philosophy is concerned only with a 
general consciousness of this truth, which even the extreme egoist involuntarily accepts. 
When for his selfish purposes he wants the help of other people not dependent on him, 
he treats them, contrary to his fundamental principle, as actual, independent persons 
fully possessed of rights ; he tries to persuade them to side with him, takes their own 
interests into consideration. Thus egoism contradicts itself, and is in any case s. false 
point of view. 



The general rule or principle of altruism ^ naturally ialls into 
two more particular ones. The beginning of this division may 
be seen already in the fundamental altruistic feeling of pity. If 
I am genuinely sorry for a person, in the first place I would not 
myself cause him harm or suffering, would not injure him, and 
secondly, when, independently of me, he suffers pain or injury, 
I would help him. Hence follow two rules of altruism, the 
negative and the positive : ( i ) Do not to others what you do not 
wish others to do to you. (2) Do to others what you would wish 
others to do to you. More briefly and simply, these two rules, which 
are usually joined together, are expressed as follows : Do not injure 
any one, and help every one so far as you are able [Neminem laede, 
imo omnes, quantum potes, juva). 

The first, negative, rule is, more particularly, called the rule of 
justice, and the second the rule of mercy. But this distinction is 
not quite correct, for the second rule, too, is founded upon justice : 
if I want others to help me when in need, it is just that I, too, 
should help them. On the other hand, if I do not wish to injure 
any one, it is because I recognise others to be living and sentient 
beings like myself j and in that case I will, of course, as much as 
in me lies, save them from suffering. I do not injure them because 
I pity them, and if I pity them, I will also help them. Mercy 
presupposes justice, and justice demands mercy — they are merely 
different aspects or different manifestations of one and the same 

"^ This term, introduced by the founder of Positivism, Auguste Comte, is the exact 
expression of the logical antithesis to egoism and therefore answers to a real need of 
philosophical language (altruism, from alter, other, like egoism, from ego, self). Our 
violent opponents of foreign vi'ords ought to be consistent, and if they object to altruism, 
they should also renounce the word egoism. Instead of these terms they may use the 
wrords 'yatchestvo ' (' selfness ') and ' druxhatchesfvo ' (' otherisni ') j the former term, I 
believe, has already been used. If it were a question of merely psychological definitions, 
the words self-love and love of others could be substituted, but including as they do the 
idea of love, they are unsuitable for the designation of ethical principles which are 
concerned not with feelings but with rules of action. One may love oneself far more 
than others, and yet, on principle, work for the good of others as much as for one's 
own. Such a person would undoubtedly be an altruist, but it would be equally absurd 
to speak of him as ' a lover of self ' or ' a lover of others.' 

^ In Hebrew sedek means 'just,' and the noun derived from it, sedeka, means 
' benevolence.' 


There is a real distinction between these two sides or degrees 
of altruism, but there is not, and there cannot be, any opposition 
or contradiction. Not to help others means to injure them ; a 
consistently just man will inevitably do works of mercy, and the 
truly merciful man cannot at the same time be unjust. The 
fact that the two altruistic rules, in spite of all the difference 
between them, are inseparable^ is very important as providing 
the foundation for the inner connection between legal justice 
and morality, and between the political and the spiritual life of 
the community. 

The general rule of altruism — 'do unto others as you would they 
should do unto you ' — by no means presupposes the material or the 
qualitative equality of all the individuals. There exists no such 
equality in nature, and it would be meaningless to demand it. It 
is not a question of equality, but simply of the equal right to exist 
and to develop the good potentialities of one's nature. A wild 
man of the Bush has as much right to exist and to develop in his 
way, as St. Francis of Assisi or Goethe had in theirs. And we 
must respect this right equally in all cases. The murder of a 
savage is as much a sin as the murder of a genius or a saint. But 
this does not imply that they are, therefore, of the same value in 
other respects, and must be treated equally outside the scope of 
this universal human right. Material equality, and therefore 
equality of rights, does not exist either between different beings 
or in one and the same being whose particular and definite rights 
and duties change with the changes in age and position ; they 
are not the same in children and in adults, in mental disease or in 
health. And yet a person's fundamental or universally human rights 
and his moral value as an individual remain the same. Nor is 
it destroyed by the infinite variety and inequality of separate 
persons, tribes, and classes. In all these differences there must 
be preserved something identical and absolute, namely, the 
significance of each person as an end in himself that is to say, 
his significance as something that cannot be merely a means for 
the ends of others. 

The logical demands of altruism are all-embracing, reason 
shows no favours, knows no barriers ; in this respect it coincides 
with the feelirig upon which altruism is psychologically based. 
Pity, as we have seen, is also universal and impartial, and through 


it man may be 'made like to God,' for his compassion equally 
embraces all, without distinction — the good and 'the enemies 
of truth,' men and demons, and even 'all of the crawling 

^ The question as to our moral duties to animals will be considered in a special 
appendix at the end of the boolc, in addition to special references to it in Part 11. and 
Part III. 



Although the moral rules of justice and mercy, psychologically 
based upon the feeling of pity, include in their extension the whole 
realm of living creatures, their intension does not exhaust the moral 
relations that hold even between human beings. Take, in the 
first place, the moral relation of children — young, but already able 
to understand the demands of morality — to their parents. It 
undoubtedly contains a peculiar, specific element, irreducible either 
to justice or to kindness and underivable from pity. A child 
immediately recognises his parents' superiority over himself, his 
dependence upon them ; he feels reverence for them, and there 
follows from it the practical duty of obedience. All this lies 
outside the boundaries of simple altruism, the logical essence of 
which consists in my recognising another as my equal, as a being 
like myself and in attaching the same significance to him as I do 
to myself. The moral relation of children to their parents, so 
far from being determined by equality, has quite the opposite 
character — it is based upon the recognition of that in which the 
two are unequal. And the ultimate psychological basis of the 
moral relation in this case cannot be the participation in the 
sufferings of others (pity), for the parents immediately appear to 
the child not as needing the help of others, but as being able to 
help it in its needsi 

This relation is not, of course, opposed to justice, but it 
contains something in addition to it. The general principle of 
justice requires that our relation to others should be what we wish 
their relation to be to us. It may logically include the moral 



relation of children to parents : in loving its mother or father, the 
child, of course, wants them to love it. But there is an essential 
difference between these two forms of love — that which the child 
feels for its parents, and that which it wants them to feel for it — ^and 
the difference does not spring from the general prijiciple itself. 
The first relation is characterised by the feeling of admiration for 
the higher and by the duty of obedience to it, while no such 
reverence and submission is required by the child from the parents. 
Of course, formal . reflection may be pursued further, and it may 
be affirmed that the children (when they reach the years of discre- 
tion, of course), in revering their parents and obeying them, wish 
to be treated in the same way by their own children in the future. 
This circumstance, however, merely establishes the abstract 
relation between the general idea of justice and filial love ; it 
certainly does not account for the peculiar nature of that love. 
Apart from all problematic thought of future children, the moral 
feeling of a real child to its parents has a sufficient basis in the 
actual relationship between this child and its parents — namely, in 
its entire dependence upon them as its Providence. This fact 
inevitably involves the admission of their essential superiority, and 
from it logically follows the duty of obedience. Thus filial love 
acquires qiiite a peculiar character of respect or reverence (pietas 
erga parentes), which carries it beyond the general limits of simple 

It may be observed that parental (especially maternal) love, or 
pity, which is the first and the most fundamental expression of the 
altruistic attitude, presupposes the same inequality, but in the 
opposite direction. Here, however, the inequality is not essential. 
When parents pity their helpless children and take care of them, 
they know from their own experience the pain of hunger, cold, etc., 
which rouse their pity, so that this is really a case of comparing 
or equalising the states of another person with one's own states of 
the same kind. A child, on the contrary, has never experienced 
for itself the advantages of mature age, which call forth in it a 
feeling of respect or reverence for its parents, and make it see 
higher beings in them. Parents pity their children because of their 
likeness to themselves, because of their being the same, though, as 
a matter of fact, unequal. Inequality, in this case, is purely 
accidental. But the specific feeling of children to their parents 


is essentially determined by the superiority of the latter, and is 
therefore directly based upon inequality. 

If one carefully observes a child who tries to defend its mother 
from an actual or imaginary insult, it will be easily seen that its 
dominant feelings are anger and indignation at the blasphemer. 
It is not so much sorry for the offended as angry with the offender. 
The child's feelings are essentially similar to those that animate 
the crowd defending its idol. " Great is Diana of the Ephesians ! 
death to the ungodly ! " 

All manifestations of pity and of altruism that follow from it 
are essentially conditioned by equality. Inequality is merely an 
accidental and transitory element in them. Iii pitying another, 
I assimilate myself to him, imagine myself in his place, get, so to 
speak, into his skin — and this in itself presupposes my equality 
with him as a fellow-creature. In recognising another as equal 
to himself, the person who experiences pity, compares the state of 
that other to similar states of himself, and from the likeness between 
them deduces the moral duty of sympathy and help. 

Non ignara mali miseris succurrere discord To pity another, 
I must compare myself to him or him to me. The assumption 
of essential inequality or heterogeneity, excluding as it does the 
thought of similar states, destroys the very root of pity and of all 
altruistic relation. ' The twice born ' Hindu is pitiless to the 
SAdras and Pariahs. His relation to them is based on inequality, 
i.e. precisely on the impossibility of comparing himself with them. 
He cannot put himself in their place, assimilate their states to his, 
and cannot, therefore, sympathise with them. In this case, just 
as in the case of the white planters' attitude to the negroes, or of 
our old serf-owners to 'the brood of Ham,' it was sought to 
justify the cruel relation which existed as a fact by the conception 
of a fundamental inequality or heterogeneity. 

Such recognition of inequality is purely negative ; it severs the 
bond of union between beings and generates or justifies all kinds 
of immoral relations. A different character attaches to that 
positive inequality which we find in filial love or piety. The 
inequality between a Brahmin and a Pariah, or between a planter 
and a negro, destroys the unity of feeling and of interests between 

1 ' Having known trouble myself, I learn to help those who suffer ' (the words of 
Dido in Virgil's Aeneid). 


them ; but the superiority of the parents over the children is, on 
the contrary, the condition of their unity and the basis of a 
particular kind of moral relation. This is the natural root of 
religious morality^ which forms a distinct and important part in the 
spiritual life of man, independently of all particular religions and 
systems of metaphysics. 


Since the appearance of De Brosses's book in the last century 
the theory of the ' gods-fetishes ' began to gain ground, and of 
late has become extremely popular under the influence of Auguste 
Comte's positive philosophy. According to this view, the primitive 
form of religion is fetishism, i.e. the deification of material objects, 
partly natural (stones, trees) and partly artificial, which have 
accidentally drawn attention to themselves or have been arbitrarily 
chosen. The beginnings or the remains of such a material cult 
are undoubtedly found in all religions j but to regard fetishism as 
the fundamental and primitive religion of humanity is contrary 
both to the evidence of history and sociology and to the demands 
of logic. (Fetishism may, however, have a deeper meaning, as the 
founder of positivism himself began to suspect in the second half 
of his career.) 

In order to recognise a stone, a bit of tree, or a shell as a god, 
i.e. as a being of superior power and importance, one must already 
possess the idea of a higher being. I could not mistake a rope for 
a snake did I not already possess the idea of the snake. But what 
could the idea of the deity be derived from ? The material objects 
which are made into fetishes and idols have in themselves, in their 
actual sensuous reality, no attributes of a higher being. The idea, 
therefore, cannot be derived from them. To call it innate is not 
to give an answer to the question. All that takes place in man is 
in a sense innate in him. There is no doubt that man is by nature 
capable of forming an idea of a higher being, for otherwise he 
would not have formed it. The question is asked not about the 
existence of this capacity but about its original application, which 
must have some immediate sufficient reason. In order to pass into 
actual consciousness every idea, even when potentially present in 
the human intellect, and in this sense innate, requires that certain 


sensuous impressions or perceptions should call it forth and give 
it a living concrete form, which subsequently undergoes a further 
process of intellectual modification, and is made wider and deeper, 
more complex and more exact. But the actual impressions from 
a chunk of wood or a rudely fashioned figure are not a sufficient 
ground for calling forth for the first time in the mind the idea of 
a higher being, or for helping to fashion that idea. More suitable 
in this respect are the impressions from the sun and the moon, 
the starry heaven, thunderstorm, sea, rivers, etc. But long before 
the mind becomes capable of dwelling on these events and of 
judging their significance, it has been given impressions of another 
kind — more familiar and more powerful — for generating in it the 
idea of a higher being. When dealing with the origin of some 
fundamental idea in human consciousness, we must think of the 
child and not of the. adult. Now it is perfectly certain that the 
child is far more conscious of its dependence upon its mother, who 
feeds and takes care of it (and later on, on its father), than of its de- 
pendence upon the sun, the thunderstorm, or the river that irrigates 
the fields of its native land. The impressions it has from the first 
of its parents contain sufficient ground for evoking in it the idea 
of a higher being as well as the feelings of reverential love and 
fear of an immeasurable power. These feelings are associated 
with the idea of a higher being and form the basis of the reHgious 
attitude. It is an unquestionable fact, and a perfectly natural one, 
that until they reach a certain age children pay no attention at all 
to the most important natural phenomena. The sun appears no 
more remarkable to them than a simple lamp, and the thunder 
produces no more impression upon them than the rattle of crockery. 
In my own case the first impression of the starry sky that I 
remember refers to my sixth year, and even then it was due to a 
special reason (the comet of 1859), while the series of clear and 
connected family memories begins in my fourth year. Neither in 
life nor in literature have I seen any indications to the reverse 
order of development in children ; and if we saw a baby of three 
years old suddenly develop an interest in astronomical phenomena, 
I think we should feel distinctly alarmed. 

Not in accidental fetishes and hand-made idols, not in majestic 
or terrible phenomena of nature, but in the living image oi parents 
is the idea of Godhead for the first time embodied for humanity 



in its childhood. For this reason the moral element— contrary to 
current opinion — has from the first an important though not an 
exclusive significance for religion. According to the elementary 
conception of it the deity has pre-eminently the character of 

At first Providence is embodied in the mother. At the lower 
stages of social development, so long as the marriage relation is 
not yet organised, the importance of the mother and the cult of 
motherhood predominate. Different peoples, like individual men, 
have lived through an epoch of matriarchy or mother-right, the traces 
of which are still preserved in history, in ancient customs, and also 
in the present life of certain savages.^ But when the patriarchal 
type of family comes to be established, the mother retains the part 
of Providence only while the children are materially dependent 
upon her for food and their first education. At that period the 
mother is the only higher being for the child ; but as he reaches 
the age of reflection he sees that his mother is herself dependent 
upon another higher being — his father, who provides food for and 
protects all his femily ; he is the true Providence, and the religious 
worship is naturally transferred to him. 


The religious attitude of children to their parents as to their 
living Providence, arising naturally in primitive humanity, ex- 
presses itself most clearly and fully when the children are grown 
up and the parents are dead. Worship of dead fathers and ancestors 
unquestionably occupies the foremost place in the development of 
the religious, moral, and social relations of humanity. The immense 
population of China still lives by the religion of ancestor- worship, 
upon which all the social, political, and family structure of the 
Middle Kingdom is founded. And among other peoples of the 
globe — savage, barbarous, or civilised, including modern Parisians- 
there is not one which does not do homage to the memoryof the dead 
in one form or another. The relation to living parents, although it 
is the first basis of religion, cannot have a purely religious character 

' There is a special literature on the subject which first arose in connection with 
classical archeology (Bahofen, Das Mutterrecht), and subsequently passed into the 
domain of comparative ethnography and sociology. 


owing to the intimacy and constant interaction in everyday life. 
As a child grows up he hears from his father about his ancestors 
who died and are the object of an already established religious 
cult ; thus the religion of parents who are still living is naturally 
merged into the religion of parents who have gone, and who, clothed 
in mysterious majesty, are raised above all that surrounds us. The 
father in his lifetime is merely a candidate for deity, and is only 
the mediator and the priest of the real god — the dead ancestor. 
It is not fear but death that gives humanity its first gods. The 
feeling of dependence and the conception of Providence, trans- 
ferred from the mother to the father, become associated with the 
idea of the forefathers when the child learns that the parents upon 
whom he depends are in a far greater dependence upon the dead, 
whose power is not limited by. any conditions of the material 
and corporeal existence. The idea of Providence and the moral 
duties of respect, service, and obedience that follow from it for 
man are thus transferred to them. To obey the will of the 
dead, one must know it. Sometimes they announce it directly, 
appearing in a vision or a dream ; in other cases it must be learnt 
through divination. The mediators between this higher divine 
power and ordinary men are, first, the living fathers or the elders 
of the tribe, but afterwards, as the social relations become more 
complex, there arises a separate class of priests, diviners, sorcerers, 
and prophets. 

It is only a subjective misanthropic mood that can reduce 
filial sentiments even in the primitive races to fear alone, to the 
exclusion of gratitude and of a disinterested recognition of 
superiority. If these moral elements are unquestionably present 
in the relation of a dog to its master in whom it sees its living 
Providence, they must a fiirtiori form part of the feelings of man 
to his Providence, originally embodied for him in his parents. 
When this interpretation is transferred to the dead ancestors, their 
cult also carries with it the moral element of filial love, wrhich 
is in this case clearly differentiated from simple altruism and 
acquires a predominantly religious character. 

According to a well-known theory, whose chief representative 
is Herbert Spencer, the whole of religion can be traced to ancestor- 
worship. Although this view does not express the complete truth, 
it is far more correct and suggestive than the theory of primitive 


fetishism or the theories which reduce all religion to the deification 
of the sun, the thunder, and other natural phenomena. The 
objects of religious worship were always active beings or spirits in 
the likeness of man. There can hardly be a doubt that the 
prototype of spirits were the souls of the departed ancestors. In 
Lithuania and Poland the general name for all spirits is forefathers 
— dziady ; with us the elementary spirits are spoken of as 
grandfather water - sprite, grandfather of the forest, the master 
house-spirit. Ovid's Metamorphoses, chiefly borrowed from the 
popular beliefs of the Greeks and Romans, are full of stories 
of the dead or dying men passing into the elementary, the 
zoomorphic, and the phytomorphic (vegetative) deities and spirits. 
The most widespread form of fetishism — the stone worship — is 
undoubtedly connected with the cult of the dead. Among the 
Laps, Buriates, and other peoples, the names of the ancestors or the 
sorcerers who were transformed into the sacred stones are re- 
membered after death.^ This transformation cannot be understood 
in the sense that the spirit of the dead becomes a stone, i.e. a soulless 
thing ; on the contrary, it retains the power that it had in its life- 
time, and is indeed more powerful than it was then. Thus among 
the Laps the petrified sorcerers foretell and cause storms and bad 
weather in all the neighbourhood. The stone in this case is merely 
the visible abode of the spirit, the instrument of its action. Among 
the Semites sacred stones were called beth-el, that is, ' house of god.' 
The same thing must be said about sacred trees. 

It is a well-known fact that among the Africans and other 
peoples the sorcerers are supposed to have for their chief character- 
istic the power of controlling atmospheric events, of producing 
good and bad weather. This power is ascribed in a still greater 
degree and more directly to the spirits of the dead sorcerers, whose 
living successors serve merely as their mediators and messengers. 
Now such a powerful spirit of a dead sorcerer, who produces 
at his will thunder and storm, differs in no way from a thunder 
god. There is no rational necessity to seek for a different 
explanation of father Zeus or of grandfather Percunas. 

It is not my object here to expound and explain the history 
of religious development, and I will not attempt to solve the 

' See, among other things, Harusin's book on Laplanders, and my article Ostatki 
pervohitnago yaxitcheitva {The Remain! of Primitive Paganism), 


question as to how far a genetic tie may be established between 
the cult of the dead and the solar, lunar, and stellar mythology. I 
will only mention some suggestive facts. In Egypt the solar deity 
Osiris reigned over the unseen world of the dead. In classical 
mythology Hecate was one of the deities of Hades. According to 
an ancient belief preserved in Manicheism the moon is an inter- 
mediate resting-place for the souls of the departed. I would also 
like to observe that the end of the theogonic process is true to its 
beginning — that the religious consciousness at its highest stage 
merely deepens and widens the content we find at the primitive 
stages. The religion of a primitive human family centres round 
the idea of the father or the nearest ancestor, first as living, then 
as dead. Their own particular parent is the highest principle for 
the family, the source of its life and welfare, the object of respect, 
gratitude, and obedience — in a word, its Providence. Through a 
natural historical process there arise the communal and the tribal 
gods, until at last the religious consciousness of humanity, united 
in thought if not in fact, rises to the idea of the universal 
Heavenly Father with His all-embracing Providence. 


The development of a religious idea involves a change in its 
extension, and also in the nature of the intellectual concepts and 
practical rules contained in it. But it does not aiFect the moral 
content of religion. I.e. man's fundamental relation to what he 
admits as higher than himself — to what he recognises as his 
Providence. That relation remains unchanged in all the forms and 
at all the stages of religious development. The ideas of the child 
about its parents, of the members of a tribe about the spirit of their 
first ancestor, the ideas of entire peoples about their national 
gods, and finally, the general human idea of the one all-good 
Father of all that is, differ essentially from one another, and 
there is also great difference in the forms of worship. The real 
tie between father and children needs no special institutions and 
no mediation ; but the relation with the invisible spirit of the 
ancestor must be maintained by special means. The spirit cannot 
partake of ordinary human food. It feeds on the evaporation of 
blood, and has therefore to be fed by sacrifices. Family sacrifices 


to the spirit of the tribe naturally differ from communal sacrifices 
to the national gods ; the ' god of war ' has greater and different 
requirements than the patron-spirit of the home, and the all- 
embracing and all- pervading Father of the universe requires no 
material sacrifices at all, but only worship in spirit and in truth. 
But in spite of all these differences, the filial relation to the higher 
being remains essentially the same at all these different stages. 
The crudest cannibal and the most perfect saint in so far as they are 
religious agree in that they both equally desire to do not their own 
will but the will of the Father. This permanent and self-identical 
filial relation to the higher (whatever this higher may be supposed 
to be) forms that principle of true pietism which connects religion 
with morality, and may equally well be described as the religious 
element in morality or the moral element in religion.^ 

Can this principle be affirmed as a generally binding moral 
rule, side by side with the principles of asceticism and altruism ? 
Apparently the filial relation to the supreme will depends upon 
the faith in that will, and one cannot require such faith from those 
who have not got it ; when there is nothing to be had, it is no 
use making demands. But there is a misunderstanding here. 
The recognition of what is higher than us is independent of any 
definite intellectual ideas, and therefore of any positive beliefs, 
and in its general character it is undoubtedly binding upon every 
moral and rational being. Every such being, in trying to 
attain the purpose of its life, is necessarily convinced that the 
attainment of it, or the final satisfection of will, is beyond the 
power of man — that is, every rational being comes to recognise 
its dependence upon something invisible and unknown. Such 
dependence cannot be denied. The only question is whether 
that upon which I am dependent has a meaning. If it has not, 
my existence, dependent upon what is meaningless, is meaningless 
also. In that case there is no point in speaking of any rational 
and moral principles and purposes. They can only have 
significance on condition that there is a meaning in my exist- 
ence, that the world is a rational system, that meaning 

1 1 am speaking here of pietism in the direct and general sense of the term as 
designating, the feeling of piety {pictas) raised to the rank of a moral principle. Usually 
the term ' pietism ' in a special historical sense is applied to a certain religious movement 
among the Protestants. 


predominates over what is meaningless in the universe. If there 
is no rational purpose in the world as a whole, there cannot be 
any in that part of it which is composed of human actions 
determined by moral rules. But in that case these rules too 
fall to the ground, for they do not lead to anything and cannot 
in any way be justified. If my higher spiritual nature is merely 
an accident, ascetic struggle with the flesh may destroy my 
spiritual being instead of strengthening it ; and in that case 
why should I observe the rules of abstinence and deprive myself 
of real pleasures for the sake of an empty dream ? In the same 
way, if there is no rational and moral order in the universe, and 
our work for the benefit of our neighbours may bring them 
harm instead of the intended help, the moral principle of 
altruism is destroyed by inner self-contradiction. If, for instance, 
I suppose, with Schopenhauer, that the ultimate reality is blind 
and senseless Will, and that all existence is essentially pain, why 
should I try and help others to support their existence ? On 
such a supposition it would be far more logical to use every 
effort to put to death the largest possible number of living 

I can do good consciously and rationally only if I believe 
in the good and in its objective independent significance in the 
world, i.e. in other words, if I believe in the moral order, in 
Providence, in God. This faith is logically prior to all particular 
religious beliefs and institutions, as well as to all systems of 
metaphysics, and in this sense it forms the so-called natural 

The natural religion gives rational sanction to all the 
demands of morality. Suppose reason directly tells us that it is 
good to subordinate the flesh to the spirit, that it is good to help 
others and to recognise the rights of other people like our own. 
Now in order to obey these demands of reason, one must believe 
in reason — believe that the good it requires from us is not a 
subjective illusion, but has real grounds and expresses the 
truth, and that that truth 'is great and overcomes.' Not to 
have this faith is to disbelieve that one's own existence has a 
meaning — is to renounce the dignity of a rational being. 


The absence of a natural religion is often fictitious. A 
negative relation to this or that form or degree of religious 
consciousness, predominant at a given time and at a given place, 
is easily taken for denial of religion as such. Thus the Pagans 
of the Roman Empire thought the Christians godless (aOeoi), 
and from their point of view they were right, for the Christians 
did reject all their gods. Apart from this, however, there exist 
cases of real godlessness or unbelief, i.e. of denying on principle 
anything higher than oneself — of denying good, reason, truth. 
But the fact of such denial, which coincides with the denial of 
morality in general, can be no more an argument against the 
generally binding character of the religiously-moral principle 
than the existence of shameless and carnal, or of pitiless and cruel 
men is an argument against the moral duty of abstinence and 

Religious morality, as all morality in general, is not a 
confirmation of everything that is, but an affirmation of the one 
thing that ought to be. Independently of all positive beliefs or 
of any unbelief, every man as a rational being must admit that 
the life of the world as a whole and his own life in particular has 
a meaning, and that therefore everything depends upon a supreme 
rational principle, in virtue of which this meaning is preserved 
and realised. And in admitting this, he must put himself into 
a filial position in relation to the supreme principle of life, that 
is, gratefully surrender himself to its providence, and submit all 
his actions to the 'will of the Father,' which speaks through 
reason and conscience. 

Just as the intellectual ideas about the parents and the 
external practical relations to them alter according to the age of 
the children, while the filial love must remain unchanged, so 
the theological conceptions and the forms of worship of the 
Heavenly Father assume many forms and undergo many changes 
with the spiritual growth of humanity ; but the religiously-moral 
attitude of free subordination of one's will to the demands of 
a higher principle must always and everywhere remain the 



Speaking generally, in morality the higher demands do not 
cancel the lower, but presuppose and include them. This might 
seem to be a matter of course ; and yet many have failed, and 
still fail, to understand this simple and obvious truth. Thus, 
according to the teaching of some Christian sects, both ancient 
and modern, the higher rule of celibacy cancels the seventh 
commandment as inferior, and therefore, in rejecting marriage, 
these sectarians readily allows all kinds of fornication. It is 
obvious that they are in error. Similarly, it is thought by 
many that the higher rule of pitying all living creatures absolves 
them from the lower duty of pitying their family and relatives, 
although, one would think, there could be no doubt about the 
latter also belonging to the class of living creatures. 

Still more often such mistakes are made in the domain of 
religious morality. The higher stages of spiritual consciousness 
once reached, subordinate to themselves and consequently change, 
but by no means cancel, the demands which had force on the 
lower stages. A man who has a conception of the Heavenly 
Father cannot, of course, regard his earthly father in the same 
way as does a babe for whom the latter is the only higher being ; 
but it does not follow that the first and the second command- 
ments cancel the fifth. We cannot now render our dead 
ancestors the religious worship which they had in the patriarchal 
times ; but this does not mean that we have no duties to the 
departed. We may well be conscious of our dependence upon 
the One Father of the universe, but this dependence is not 
immediate ; our existence is, without a doubt, closely determined 
by heredity and environment. Heredity means the forefathers, 
and it is by them that our environment has been made. The 
supreme Will has determined our existence through our ancestors, 
and, bowing down before Its action, we cannot be indifferent to 
Its instruments. I know that if I were born among cannibals 
I should be a cannibal myself, and I cannot help feeling gratitude 
and reverence to men who by their labour and exploits have 
raised my people from the savage state and brought them to the 
level of culture upon which they are standing now. This has been 


done by Providence through men who have been specially called 
and who cannot be separated from their providential work. If 
I praise and value the fact that it has been given to my native 
land, with which my existence is so closely interwoven, to be a 
Christian and a European country, I am bound to hold in pious 
remembrance the Kiev prince who christened Russia, and that 
northern giant who with powerful blows shattered the Muscovo- 
Mongolian exclusiveness and brought Russia within the circle 
of educated nations, as well as all those men who in the different 
spheres of life moved us forward along the patli opened by 
those two historical forefathers of Russia. It is sometimes 
maintained that individuals count for nothing in history, and 
that what has been done by certain men would have been done 
just as well by others. Speaking in the abstract, we might 
of course have been born of other parents and not of our actual 
father and mother ; but this idle thought about possible parents 
does not cancel our duties to the actual ones. 

The providential men who gave us a share in the higher 
religion and in human enlightenment did not themselves create 
these in the first instance. What they gave us they had them- 
selves received from the geniuses, heroes, and saints of the 
former ages, and our grateful memory must include them too. 
We must reconstruct as completely as possible the whole line 
of our spiritual ancestor; — men through whom Providence has 
led humanity on the path to perfection. The pious memory of our 
ancestors compels us to do service to them actively. The nature 
of that service is conditioned by the ultimate character of the 
world as a whole, and cannot be understood apart from theoretical 
philosophy and aesthetics. Here one can only point to the 
moral principle involved,, namely, the pious and grateful reverence 
due to the forefathers. 

Such a cult of human ancestors in spirit and in truth does not 
belittle the religion of the one Heavenly Father. On the 
contrary, it makes it definite and real. It is what He put into 
these ' chosen vessels ' that we revere in them ; in these visible 
images of the unseen, the Deity Itself is revealed and glorified. 
A person in whose mind the concrete images of providential 
action incarnate in history fail to evoke gratitude, reverence, 
and homage will be still less likely to respond to the pure idea of 


Providence. A truly religious attitude to the higher is impossible 
for one who has never experienced the feelings to which the 
poet gives expression : 

When, in the drunkenness of crime, 

The crowd goes forth in violent rage, 

And evil genius through the mire 

Drags name of prophet and of sage, 

My knees are bent in one desire. 

My head is bowed towards the page 

Where clear and open for all time 

They wrote the message for their age. 

I call up their majestic shades 

In the dim church where tumult fades, 

In clouds of incense learn and glean, 

And forgetting the mob and its vulgar noise, 

I give my ears to the noble voice 

And take full breath of all they mean. 



Each of the moral foundations I have laid down — shame, pity, and 
the religious feeling — may be considered from three points of 
view : as a virtue, as a rule of action, and as the condition of a 
certain good. 

Thus, in relation to shame, we distinguish, first of all, persons 
modest or shameless by nature, approving of the former, and con- 
demning the latter j modesty, therefore, is recognised as a good 
natural quality or as a virtue. But by that very fact it is 
abstracted from particular cases and is made the norm or the 
general rule of action (and, through this, a basis for passing 
judgment on actions) independently of the presence or absence 
of this virtue in this or in that individual. If modesty is not 
sometimes good and sometimes bad (in the way in which a loud 
voice is good at a public meeting and bad in the room of a 
sleeping invalid) ; if modesty is a good in itself, reason requires 
us in all cases to act in accordance with it, namely, to abstain 
from actions that are shameful — i.e. that express the predominance 
of the lower nature over the higher— and to practise actions of 
the opposite character. Behaviour in conformity with this rule 
leads in the 'end to permanent self-control, to freedom of the 
spirit, and its power over the material existence ; that is, it leads 
to a state which affords us a certain higher satisfaction and is a 
moral good. 

In the same way, the capacity for feeling pity or compassion 
(in opposition to selfishness, cruelty, and malice) is, in the first 
place, a good personal quality or virtue. In so far as it is 



recognised as such, or is approved, it provides the norm for 
altruistic actions in accordance with the rules of justice and 
mercy. And such activity leads to the moral good of true com- 
munity or oneness with other men, and, finally, with all living 

In a similar manner, a grateful recognition of that which is 
higher than us, and upon which we depend, is the natural founda- 
tion of the virtue of piety, and at the same time provides a 
rational rule of religious conduct. It also leads to the moral 
good of unity with the first causes and bearers of existence : 
with our forefathers, with the departed in general, and with the 
whole of the invisible world which conditions our life from this 
point of view. 

Since there is an indissoluble inner connection between any 
given virtue, the rules of action corresponding to it, and the 
moral good ensuing therefrom, there is no need, in inquiring 
into the subject more closely, to adopt every time all the three 
points of view. It will be sufficient to take one only, viz. the 
point of view of virtue, for it logically contains the other two, 
and no sharp line of demarcation can be drawn between them. 
It would be impossible to deny that the man who invariably acted 
in accordance with the rules of virtue was virtuous, even though 
he happened to possess but a small degree of the corresponding 
natural faculty, or was noted, indeed, by the presence of the 
opposite characteristic. On the other hand, that which, in 
contradistinction to virtue, I call a moral good, is also a virtue, 
though not as originally given but as acquired — it is the norm of 
activity which has become second nature. 


A virtuous man is man as he ought to be. In other words, 
virtue is man's normal or due relation to everything (for unrelated 
qualities or properties are unthinkable). The due relation does 
not mean the same relation. In drawing the distinction between 
the self and the not self, we necessarily posit or determine the 
not self in three ways : either as the lower (by nature), or as 
similar to us (of the same kind), or as higher than we. It is 
obvious that there cannot be a fourth alternative. Hence it 


logically follows that the right or the moral relation must have a 
threefold character. It is clear that we ought not to regard the 
lower (say, an inclination of the material nature) as if it were 
the higher {e.g. a decree of the divine will) ; it would be 
equally opposed to what is right to regard a being like 
ourselves — say, a human being — either as lower than we [i.e. 
regard it as a soulless thing), or as higher (look upon it as a 

Thus, instead of one, we have three right or moral relations, 
or three kinds of virtue, corresponding to the three divisions into 
which the totality of objects correlated with us necessarily falls. 
I say necessarily, because man finds himself to be neither the 
absolutely supreme or highest being, nor the absolutely sub- 
ordinate or lowest, nor, finally, alone of his kind. He is conscious 
of himself as an intermediate being and, moreover, one of the many 
intermediate. The direct logical consequence of this feet is the 
threefold character of his moral relations. In virtue of it, one 
and the same quality or action may have quite a difi«rent and 
even opposite significance, according to the kind of object to 
which it refers. Thus, belittling oneself or recognising one's 
worthlessness is called humility, and is a virtue when it refers to 
objects of superior dignity ; but in relation to unworthy objects 
it is considered base and is immoral.^ In the same way, enthusiasm, 
when roused by high principles and ideals, is no doubt a virtue ; 
in relation to indifferent objects it is an amusing weakness j and 
directed upon objects of the lower order it becomes a shameful 
mania. Virtues in the proper sense are always and in every one 
the same, for they express a quality determined in the right way, 
and correspond to the very meaning of one or other of the three 
possible spheres of relation. But from these definite and deter- 
mining virtues must be distinguished qualities of will and ways of 
action which are not in themselves morally determined, and do 
not permanently correspond to a definite sphere of duty. These 
may sometimes be virtues, sometimes indifferent states, and some- 
times even vices ; but the change in the moral significance is 

' In English the word humility has possibly a less conditional sense, as a state of 
mind or an attitude towards life. From a Christian point of view one can never be 
too humble. Though of course there is 'the pride that apes humility' and the 
condition of mind of Uriah Heep (Ed,}. 


not always accompanied by a corresponding change in the name 
of the psychological quality in question. 

It is clear, then, that even if we did not find in our psychical 
experience the three fundamental moral feelings of shame, pity, 
and reverence, it would be necessary on logical grounds alone to 
divide the totality of moral relations into three parts, or to 
accept three fundamental types of virtue, expressing man's relation 
to what is lower than himself, to what is like him, and to what is 
above him. 


If in addition to the foundations of morality recognised by us 
— shame, pity, and reverence for the higher — we go over all 
the other qualities which have, in ancient and modern times, been 
considered as virtues, not a single one of them will be found to 
deserve that name of itself. Each of these various qualities can 
only be regarded as a virtue when it accords with the objective 
norms of right, expressed in the three fundamental moral data 
indicated above. Thus abstinence or temperance has the dignity 
of virtue only when it refers to shameful states or actions. Virtue 
does not require that we should be abstinent or temperate in 
general or in everything, but only that we should abstain from 
that which is below our human dignity, and from the things in 
which it would be a shame to indulge ourselves unchecked. 
But if a person is moderate in seeking after truth, or abstains 
from goodwill to his neighbours, no one would consider or 
call him virtuous on that account ; he would, on the contrary, 
be condemned as lacking in generous impulses. It follows from 
this that temperance is not in itself or essentially a virtue, 
but becomes or does not become one according to its right or 
wrong application to objects. In the same way, courage or 
fortitude is only a virtue in so far as it expresses the right 
relation of the rational human being to his lower material 
nature, the relation, namely, of mastery and power, the 
supremacy of the spirit over the animal instinct of self- 
preservation.^ Praiseworthy courage is shown by the man who 
does not tremble at accidental misfortunes, who keeps his self- 

^ Concerning this virtue, see above, Chap, I. p. 36, 


control in the midst of external dangers, and bravely risks his life 
and material goods for the sake of things that are higher and 
more worthy. But the bravest unruliness, the most daring 
aggressiveness, and the most fearless blaspheming are not praised 
as virtues ; nor is the horror of sin or the fear of God reckoned 
as shameful cowardice. In this case then, again, the quality of 
being virtuous or vicious depends upon a certain relation to the 
object and not on the psychological nature of the emotional and 
volitional states. 

The third of the so-called cardinal virtues,^ wisdom, i.e. the 
knowledge of the best ways and means for attaining the purpose 
before us, and the capacity to apply these means aright, owes its 
significance as a virtue not to this formal capacity for the most 
expedient action as such, but necessarily depends upon the moral 
worth of the purpose itself. Wisdom as a virtue is the faculty of 
attaining the best purposes in the best possible way, or the know- 
ledge of applying in the most expedient way one's intellectual 
forces to objects of the greatest worth. There may be wisdom 
apart from this condition, but such wisdom would not be a virtue. 
The Biblical ' serpent ' had certainly justified its reputation as the 
wisest of earthly creatures by the understanding he showed of 
human nature, and the skill with which he used this understand- 
ing for the attainment of his purpose. Since however the purpose 
was an evil one, the serpent's admirable wisdom was not recog- 
nised as a virtue, but was cursed as the source of evil ; and the 
wisest creature has remained the symbol of an immoral creeping 
mind, absorbed in what is low and unworthy. Even in everyday 
life we do not recognise as virtue that worldly wisdom which 
goes no further than understanding human weaknesses and arrang- 
ing its own affairs in accordance with selfish ends. 

The conception oi justice (the fourth cardinal virtue) has four 
difi^rent meanings. In the widest sense 'just' is synonymous 
with due, correct, normal, or generally right — not only in the 
moral sphere (with, regard to will and action) but also in the in- 
tellectual (with regard to knowledge and thinking) ; for instance, 

1 From the early days of the scholastics the name of cardinal or philosophic virtues 
(in contradistinction to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity) has been 
reserved to the four virtues which Plato defined in the Republic, namely, temperance, 
courage, wisdom, and justice. I take the names of these four virtues in their general 
sense, independently of the meaning they may bear in Plato's philosophy. 


'you reason y«rf^ ' or '■cette solution [d'un probUme mathSmatique ou 
witaphysique) est justed Taken in this sense the conception of 
justice, approaching that of truth, is wider than the conception of 
virtue and belongs to the theoretical rather than to the moral 
philosophy. In the second, more definite sense, justice {aequitas) 
corresponds to the fundamental principle of altruism, which 
requires that we should recognise everybody's equal right to life 
and well-being which each recognises for himself. In this 
sense justice is not special virtue, but merely a logical objective 
expression of the moral principle, which finds its subjective 
psychological expression in the fundamental feeling of pity (com- 
passion or sympathy). The idea of justice is used in the third 
sense when a distinction is made between degrees of altruism (or 
of moral relation to our fellow-creatures) and when the first, 
negative stage ('not to injure anyone') is described as justice 
proper {justitia), while the second, positive stage (' to help every 
one') is designated as charity [caritas, chariti). As already 
pointed out (in Chapter III.) this distinction is purely relative, 
and is certainly insufficient for making justice into a special 
virtue. No one would call just a man who decidedly refused to 
help any one or to alleviate anybody's suffering, even though he 
did not injure his neighbours by direct acts of violence.. The 
moral motive both for abstaining from inflicting injury and for 
rendering help, is one and the same — namely, a recognition of 
the right of others to live and to enjoy life. No moral motive 
could be found to make any one halt half-way and be content with 
the negative side of the moral demand. It is clear, then, that 
such pause or such limitation cannot possibly correspond to any 
special virtue, and merely expresses a lesser degree of the general 
altruistic virtue — the sympathetic feeling. And there is no 
universally binding or constant measure for the lesser and the 
greater, so that each case must be judged upon its own merits. 
When moral consciousness in the community reaches a certain 
level of development, the refusal to help even a stranger or an 
enemy is condemned by the conscience as a direct wrong. 
This is perfectly logical, for if, speaking generally, I ought to help 
my neighbour, I wrong him by not helping him. Even on the 
lower stages of moral consciousness a refusal to help is, within 
certain limits, regarded as a wrong and a crime — for instance 



within the limits of the femily, the tribe, the army. Among 
barbarous people everything is permissible so far as enemies are 
concerned, so that the idea of wrong does not even apply with 
respect to them ; but a peaceful traveller or guest has a right to 
the most active help and generous gifts. If, however, justice 
demands charity and mercy (among the barbarians in relation to 
some men only, and with the progress of morality, in relation to 
all) it clearly cannot be a virtue by itself, distinct from charity. 
It is simply an expression of the general moral principle of 
altruism which has different degrees and forms of application, but 
always contains an idea of justice. 

Finally, there is a fourth sense in which the term may be used. 
On the supposition that the objective expression of what is right is 
to be found in laws (the laws of the state or of the Church), it 
may be maintained that an unswerving obedience to laws is an 
absolute moral duty, and that a corresponding disposition to be 
strictly law-abiding is a virtue identical with that of justice. 
This view is only valid within the limits of the supposition on 
which it is based — that is, it is wholly applicable to laws that 
proceed from the Divine perfection, and therefore express the 
supreme truth, but is applicable to other laws only on condition 
that they agree with that truth ; for one ought to obey God more 
than men. Justice in this sense, then — that is, the striving to be 
law-abiding — is not in itself a virtue ; it may or may not be that, 
according to the nature and the origin of the laws that claim 
obedience. For the source of human laws is a turbid source. 
The limpid stream of moral truth is hardly visible in it under the 
layer of other, purely historical elements, which express merely the 
actual correlation of forces and interests at this or that moment of 
time. Consequently justice as a virtue by no means always coin- 
cides with legality or judicial right, and is sometimes directly 
opposed to it, as the jurists themselves admit : summum jus — 
summa injuria. But while fully admitting the difference and the 
possible conflict between the inner truth and the law, many 
people think that such conflicts should always be settled in fevour 
of legality. They maintain, that is, that justice requires us in all 
cases to obey the law, even if the law be unjust. In support of 
their view they quote the authority and the example of a righteous 
man of antiquity, Socrates, who thought it wrong to run avray 


from the lawful, though unjust, sentence of the Athenian judges 
against him. But in truth this famous example teaches something 
very different. 

So far as we know from Xenophon and Plato, Socrates was 
led to his decision by two different motives. In the first place, he 
thought that to save by flight the small remainder of life to which 
he, an old man of seventy, could look forward, would be shameful 
and cowardly, especially for him, who believed in the immortality 
of the soul, and taught that true wisdom was continual dying (to 
the material world). Secondly, Socrates thought that a citizen 
ought to sacrifice his personal welfare to the laws of his country, even 
if they were unjust, y»r the sake of filial piety. Socrates, then, was 
guided by the moral motives of asceticism and piety, and certainly 
not by the conception of the absolute value of legality, which he 
never admitted. Besides, in the case of Socrates, there was no 
conflict between two duties, but only a conflict between a 
personal right and a civic duty, and it may be accepted as a matter 
of general principle that right must give way to duty. No one 
is bound to defend his own material life : it is merely his right, 
which it is always permissible, and sometimes laudable, to sacrifice. 
It is a different matter when the civic duty of obedience to laws 
conflicts not with a personal right, but with a moral duty, as in 
the famous classical case of Antigone. She had to choose between 
the moral and religious duty of giving honourable burial to her 
brother, and the civic duty of obeying the prohibition to do so — a 
prohibition impious and inhuman, though legally just, for it pro- 
ceeded from the lawful ruler of her native town. Here comes 
into force the rule that one ought to obey God more than men, 
and it is made abundantly clear that justice in the sense of legality, 
or of external conformity of actions to established laws, is not in 
itself a virtue, but may or may not be such according to circum- 
stances. Therefore the heroism of Socrates, who submitted to an 
unjust law, and the heroism of Antigone, who violated such a law, 
are equally laudable — and not only because in both cases there was 
sacrifice of life, but from the nature of the case. Socrates re- 
nounced his own material right for the sake of the higher ideas of 
human dignity and patriotic duty. Antigone defended the right 
of another, and thereby fulfilled her duty — for the burial of her 
brother was his right and her duty, while it was in no sense 


Socrates' duty to escape from prison. Speaking generally, pietas 
erga patriam, like pietas erga parentes^ can only compel us to 
sacrifice our own right, but certainly not the right of others. 
Suppose, for instance, that filial piety developed to the point of 
heroism induced a man not to resist his father who intends to kill 
him. The moral worth of such heroism may be disputed, but it 
would certainly never even occur to any one to justify or to call 
heroic that same man if, out of obedience to his father, he thought 
it his duty to kill his own brother or sister. The same is appli- 
cable to unjust and inhuman laws, and from this it follows that 
justice, in the sense of obedience to laws as such, according to the 
rule '■ fiat justitia^ pereat mundus ' is not in itself a virtue. 


The three so-called theological virtues recognised in the 
patristic and the scholastic ethics — faith, hope, and charity ^ — also 
have no unconditional moral worth in themselves, but are 
dependent upon other circumstances. Even for theologians, not 
every kind of faith is a virtue.; The character of virtue does not 
attach to faith which has for its object something non-existent, or 
unworthy, or which unworthily regards that which is worthy. 
Thus, in the first case, if a person firmly believes in the philo- 
sopher's stone, i.e. a powder, liquid, or gas which transforms all metals 
to gold, such faith in an object which does not ejcist in the nature 
of things, is not regarded as a virtue, but as self-deceit. In the 
second case, if a person not merely admits — and rightly so — the 
existence of the power of evil as a fact, but makes that power an 
object of faith in the sense of confidence in and devotion to it 
forms a compact with it, sells his soul to the devil, and so on 
such faith is justly regarded as a terrible moral fall, for its object, 
though actual, is evil and unworthy. Finally, in the third 
case, the faith of the devils themselves, of whom the apostle writes 
that they believe (in. God) and tremble,^ is not recognised as a 
virtue, for although it refers to an object that exists, and is of 
absolute worth, it regards that object in an unworthy way (with 
horror instead of joy, with repulsion instead of attraction). Only 

1 According to the well-known text of St. Paul, in which, however, the term 
'virtue' is not used. a St. James ii. 13. 


that faith in the higher being may be regarded as a virtue, which 
regards it in a worthy manner, namely, with free filial piety. And 
such faith entirely coincides with the religious feeling which we 
found to be one of the three ultimate foundations of morality. 

The second theological virtue — hope — comes really to the same 
thing. There can be no question of virtue when some one trusts 
in his own strength or wisdom, or indeed in God, if in the sole 
expectation of material gain from Him. That hope alone is a 
virtue which looks to God as the source of true blessings to come ; 
and this is, again, the same fundamental religious relation, to which 
is added an idea of the future and a feeling of expectation. 

Finally, the moral significance of the third and greatest theo- 
logical virtue — love — entirely depends upon the given objective 
determinations. Love in itself, or love in general, is not a virtue — 
if it were, all beings would alike be virtuous, for they all without 
exception love something and live by their love. But selfish love 
for oneself and one's property, passionate love of drink or of 
horse-racing, is not reckoned as a virtue. 

' II faut en ce has monde aimer beaucoup de chases^ teaches a neo- 
pagan poet. Such 'love' had been expressly rejected by the 
apostle of love : 

'■LoFue not the world, neither the things that are in the worlds •*■ 
This is the first, negative part of the commandment of love, 
and it should not be overlooked as it usually is. It is simply the 
expression of the fundamental principle of asceticism : to guard 
ourselves from the lower nature and to struggle against its 
dominion. For it is clear from the context that by ' the world ' 
which we must not love, the apostle means neither mankind as a 
whole, nor the totality of the creation which proclaims the glory 
of God, but precisely the dark and irrational basis of the material 
nature which ceases to be passive and potential, as it ought to be, 
and unlawfully invades the domain of the human spirit. Further 
on it is directly said that in the world there is the lust of the flesh, i.e. 
the desire of immoderate sensuality, the lust of the eyes, i.e. greed 
or love of money, and the pride of life, i.e. vainglory and ambition. 
Biblical ethics adds to the negative ' love not the world ' two 
positive commands : love God with all thy heart, and lave thy 
neighbour as thyself. These two kinds of love are rightly dis- 

' I John ii. 15. 


tinguished, for the particular nature of the object necessarily con- 
ditions the particular moral relation to be adopted towards them. 
Love to our neighbours has its source in pity, and love towards 
God in reverence. To love one's neighbour as oneself really 
means to feel for him as one does for oneself. Whole-hearted 
love of God means entire devotion to Him, full surrender of one's 
own will to His — i.e. the perfection of the filial or the religious 
feeling and relation. 

Thus the commandment of love is not connected with any 
particular virtue, but is the culmination of all the fundamental 
demands of morality in the three necessary respects : in relation to 
the lower, to the higher, and to that which is on a level with us. 


I have shown that the four ' cardinal ' as well as the three 
' theological ' virtues can be reduced, in one way or another, to the 
three ultimate foundations of morality, indicated above. It can 
now be left to the goodwill and the intelligence of the reader to 
continue the analysis of the other so-called virtues. There exists 
no generally recognised list of them, and, by means of scholastic 
distinctions, their number can be increased indefinitely. But for 
the sake of completing what has gone before, I should like to say 
a few words about five virtues which present a certain interest 
in one respect or another, namely, concerning magnanimity, 
disinterestedness, generosity, patience, and truthfulness. 

We call magnanimous a man who is ashamed, or finds it 
beneath his dignity, to insist on his material rights to the detriment 
of other people, or to bind his will by lower worldly interests 
(such as vanity), which he therefore readily sacrifices for the sake 
of higher considerations. We also call magnanimous the man 
who is undisturbed by adversities and changes of fortune, because, 
again, he is ashamed of allowing his peace of mind to be dependent 
upon material and accidental things. The words italicised are 
sufficient to indicate that this virtue is simply a special expression 
or form of the first root of morality — viz. of the self-assertion of the 
human spirit against the lower, material side of our being. The 
essential thing here is the feeling of human dignity, which, in the 
first instance, manifests itself in the feeling of shame. 


Disinterestedness is the freedom of the spirit from attachment 
to a certain Icind of material goods, namely, to possessions. It is 
clearly a particular expression of that same feeling of human 
dignity. In a corresponding manner, vices opposed to this viitue 
— miserliness and cupidity — are felt to be shameJuL 

Generosity in its external manifestations coincides with 
magnanimity and disinterestedness, but it has a different inner 
basis, namely, an altruistic one. A virtuously generous man 
is one who shares his property with others out of justice or bene- 
volence (for in so far as he does it out of vanity or pride, he is not 
virtuous). But at the same time such a man may be attached 
to the property he gives away to the degree of miserliness, and in 
that case he cannot, in strictness, be called disinterested. It must 
only be said that the altruistic virtue of generosity overcomes in 
him the vice of cupidity. 

Patience (as a virtue) is only the passive aspect of that quality 
of the soul which, in its active manifestation, is called magna- 
nimity or spiritual fortitude. The difference is almost entirely 
subjective, and no hard and fast line can be drawn between the 
two. A man who calmly endures torment or misfortune will 
be called magnanimous by some, patient by others, courageous 
by the third, while the fourth will see in him an example of 
a special virtue — serenity {aTapa^la) and so on. The discussion 
of the comparative appropriateness of these definitions can have 
only a linguistic and not an ethical interest. On the other 
hand, the identity of the external expression may (as in the case 
of generosity) conceal important differences in the moral content. 
A man may patiently endure physical or mental suffering owing 
to a low degree of nervous sensitiveness, dullness of mind and 
an apathetic temperament, and in that case patience is not a 
virtue at all. Or patience may be due to the inner force of the 
spirit, which does not give way to external influences — and then it 
is an ascetic virtue (reducible to our first basis of morality) ; 
or it may arise from meekness and love of one's neighbours 
(caritas), which does not wish to pay back evil for evil and 
injury for injury — and in that case it is an altruistic virtue (re- 
ducible to the second principle — pity, which here extends even 
to enemies who inflict the injury). Finally, patience may 
spring from obedience to the higher will upon which all that 


happens depends — and then it is a religious virtue (reducible to 
the third principle). 

A particuliar variety of patience is the quality which is 
designated in the Russian language by the grammatically incorrect 
term '■terpimost^ — tolerance (^passivum pro activo). It means the 
admission of other people's freedom even when it seems to lead 
to error. This attitude is in itself neither a vice nor a virtue, 
but may, in different circumstances, become either. It depends 
on the object to which it refers (thus injury of the weak by the 
strong must not be tolerated, and 'tolerance' of it is immoral 
and not virtuous), and still more, on the inner motives from 
which it arises. It may spring from magnanimity or from 
cowardice, from respect for the rights of others and from contempt 
of the good of others, from profound feith in the conquering 
power of the higher truth and from indifference to that truth.^ 


Among the derivative or secondary virtues truthfulness must be 
recognised as the most important, both owing to its specifically 
human character (for in the strict sense it is only possible for a 
being endowed with the power of speech^) and to its significance 
for social morality. At the same time this virtue has been and 
still is the subject of much disagreement between different schools 
of moralists. 

The word is the instrument of reason for expressing that 
which is, that which may be, and that which ought to be, i.e. 
for expressing the actual, the formal, and the ideal truth. The 
possession of such an instrument is part of the higher nature of 
man, and therefore when he misuses it, giving expression to un- 
truth for the sake of lower material ends, he does something 
contrary to human dignity, something shameful. At the same 
time the word is the expression of human solidarity, the most 
important means of communication between men. But this 
applies only to true words. Therefore when an individual person 
uses speech to express untruth for his own selfish ends (not only 

' A more detailed discussion of it will be found at the beginning of my article 
Spor spravejlivoui [Tie Dispute about yustice). 

' Animals may be naive or cunning, but only man can be truthful or deceitful. 


individually selfish, but collectively selfish also, e.g. in the interests 
of his family, his class, his party, etc.) he violates the rights of 
others and injures the community. A lie is thus both shameful 
for the liar, and damaging and insulting to the deceived. The 
demand for truthfulness has then a twrofold moral foundation. 
It is based, first, on the human dignity of the subject himself, 
and secondly upon justice^ i.e. upon a recognition of the right of 
others not to be deceived by me, in as much as I myself cannot 
wish to be deceived by them. 

All this is in direct conformity w^ith the demands of reason 
and contains nothing dubious. But by abstracting the demand for 
truthfulness from its moral basis, and turning it into a special 
virtue possessed of absolute w^orth in itself, the scholastic philo- 
sophy has created difficulties and contradictions which do not 
follow from the nature of the case. If by a lie is meant the 
contrary of truth in the full sense of the word, i.e. not only of the 
real and formal, but also and chiefly of the ideal or purely moral 
truth (of that which ought to be), it would be perfectly correct 
and indisputable to ascribe absolute significance to the rule 'do 
not lie,' and to admit of no exception to it under any circum- 
stances ; for, clearly, truth ceases to be truth if there may be a 
single case in which it is permissible to depart from it. There 
could be no question of it, at any rate not between people who 
understand that A = A and that 2x2 = 4. But the trouble is 
that the philosophers who particularly insist on the rule ' do not 
lie,' as allowing of no exception, are themselves guilty of a falsity 
by arbitrarily limiting the meaning pf truth (in each given case) 
to the real, or more exactly, to the matter of fact aspect of it, taken 
separately. Adopting this point of view, they come to the following 
absurd dilemma (I give the usual instance as the clearest and 
simplest). When a person, having no other means at his com- 
mand for frustrating a would-be murderer in pursuit of his 
innocent victim, hides the latter in his house, and to the pursuer's 
question whether that person is there, answers in the negative, 
or, for greater plausibility, ' puts him ofF the track ' by mention- 
ing quite a different place, — in lying thus he acts either in con- 
formity with the moral law or in opposition to it. If the first, it 
is permissible to violate the moral command ' do not lie ' ; morality 
is thus deprived of its absolute value, and the way is open to justify 


every kind of evil. If the second — if the man has sinned by 
telling a lie — it appears that the moral duty of truthfulness actu- 
ally compelled him to become a real accomplice of the murderer 
in his crime — which is equally opposed to reason and to the moral 
sense. There can be no middle course, for it is obvious that a 
refusal to ansvirer or an evasive answ^er would simply confirm the 
pursuer's suspicion and would finally give away the victim. 

It will be remembered that great moralists like Kant and 
Fichte, who insist on the absolute and formal character of the moral 
law, maintain that even in such circumstances a lie would be 
unjustifiable, and that, therefore, the person questioned ought to 
fulfil the duty of truthfulness without thinking of the con- 
sequences, for which (it is urged) he is not responsible. Other 
moralists, who reduce all morality to the feeling of pity or the 
principle of altruism, believe that lying is permissible and even 
obligatory when it can save the life or promote the welfare of 
others. This assertion, however, is too wide and indefinite and 
easily leads to all kinds of abuse. 

How then are we to decide the question whether that un- 
fortunate man ought to have told a lie or not?^ When both 
horns of a dilemma equally lead to an absurdity, there must be 
something wrong in the formulation of the dilemma itself. 
In the present case the ' something wrong ' is to be found in the 
ambiguity of the words 'lie,' 'false,' and 'lying,' which are 
here taken to have one meaning only, or to combine both meanings 
in one, which is not really the case. Thus the main term is 
falsely understood at the very beginning of the argument, and this 
can lead to nothing but false conclusions. 

I propose to consider it in detail, and let not the reader grudge 
a certain pedanticism of this examination. The question itself 
has arisen solely owing to the scholastic pedantry of the abstract 

According to the formal definition of it a lie is a contradiction 
between somebody's assertion^ concerning a given feet and the 
actual existence, or manner of existence, of that fact. But this 
formal conception of a lie has no direct bearing on morality. An 

' The general definition must include both affirmations and denials, and I therefore 
use the term assertion to cover both. The words 'judgment ' and ' proposition ' involve 
a shade of meaning unsuitable in the present case. 


assertion that contradicts reality may sometimes be simply mistaken, 
and in that case its actual falsity will be limited to the objective 
(or more exactly, to the phenomenal) sphere, without in the 
least touching upon the moral aspect of the subject ; that is, it 
will contain no lie in the moral sense at all : a mistake is not a 
falsehood. Take an extreme case. It is no sin against truthful- 
ness to talk nonsense through absent-mindedness, or through 
ignorance of language, like the German in the well-known 
anecdote who mixed up English and German words and affirmed 
that he ' became a cup of tea.' But apart from mistakes of speech, 
the same thing must be said of the mistakes of thought or errors. 
Many people have affirmed, and are still affirming, both in speech 
and in writing, things as false (in the objective sense) as the 
assertion that a man became a cup of tea, but do so consciously, 
intending to say precisely what they do say. If, however, they 
sincerely take falsity for truth, no one will call them liars or see 
anything immoral in their error. Thus neither the contradiction 
between speech and reality, nor the contradiction between 
thought and reality is a lie in the moral sense. Is it to be 
found in the contradiction between the will and reality as 
such, i.e. in the simple intention to lie ? But there never 
is such simple intention. People — at any rate those who 
can be held morally responsible — lie for the sake of something, 
with some object. Some lie to satisfy their vanity, to make a 
show, to draw attention to themselves, to be noted ; others for 
the sake of material gain, in order to deceive some one with profit 
to themselves. Both these kinds of lie, of which the first is called 
bragging, and the second cheating, fall within the moral sphere, 
and are to be condemned as shameful to the person who tells 
them, and as insulting and injurious to others. But in addition 
to the vainglorious lie or bragging, and the lie for the sake of gain 
or cheating, there exists a more subtle kind of lie, which has no 
immediately low purpose, but must nevertheless be condemned as 
insulting to one's neighbours. I mean the lie out of contempt 
for humanity, beginning with the usual ' I am not at home ' and 
down to the most complex political, religious, and literary 
humbug. There is nothing shameful in the narrow sense of the 
word in this kind of lie (unless of course it is made for purposes 
of gain), but it is immoral from the altruistic point of view, as 


violating the rights of the deceived. The person who hoaxes 
others would obviously dislike to be deceived himself, and would 
regard an attempt to hoax him as a violation of his human rights. 
Consequently he ought to respect the same right in other people. 

The case of a man who deceives the evil-doer for the sake of 
preventing murder obviously does not fall within the first two 
kinds of immoral lie, i.e. it is neither bragging nor cheating ; 
could it possibly be classed with the last kind, that is, with 
hoaxing, which is immoral in the sense of being insulting to 
another person ? Is it not a case of despising humanity in the 
person of the would-be murderer, who is, after all, a human 
being, and must not be deprived of any of his human rights ? 
But the right of the criminal to have me for his accomplice in 
the perpetration of the murder can certainly not be reckoned 
among his human rights ; and it is precisely the demand for an 
accomplice and it alone that is contained in his question as to the 
whereabouts of his victim. Is it permissible for a moralist to 
have recourse to what he knows to be fiction, especially when 
it is a question of a man's life ? For it is sheer fiction to suppose 
that in asking his question the would-be murderer is thinking 
about the truth, wants to know the truth, and is, therefore, like 
any other human being, entitled to have a correct answer from 
those who know it. In reality there is nothing of the kind. The 
man's question does not exist as a separate and independent fact 
expressing his interest as to the place where his victim really is ; 
the question is only an inseparable moment in a whole series of 
actions which, in their totality, form an attempt at murder. An 
affirmative answer would not be a fulfilment of the universal duty 
to speak the truth at all ; it would simply be criminal connivance 
which would convert the attempt into actual murder. 

If we are to talk of truthfulness, truthfulness demands, in the 
first place, that we should take a case as it really is, in its actual 
completeness and its proper inner significance. Now the words 
and actions of the would-be murderer in the instance we are 
considering are held together by, and derive their actual meaning 
solely from, his intention to kill his victim ; therefore it is only in 
connection with this intention that one can truly judge of his 
words and actions, and of the relation to them on the part of 
another person. Since we know the criminal intention, we 


have neither a theoretical ground nor a moral right to separate the 
man s question (and consequently our answer to it) from the 
object to which it actually refers. From this point of view, which 
is the only true one, the man's question means nothing but ' help 
me to accomplish the murder.'' A correct answer to it, overlooking 
the real meaning of the question, and, contrary to obvious fact, 
taking it to have some relation to truth — would he false from the 
theoretical point of view, and from the practical would simply 
mean compliance with the criminal request. The only possible 
means of refusing that request would be to put the would-be 
murderer ofF the track : such refusal is morally binding both in 
relation to the victim whose life it saves, and in relation to 
the criminal whom it gives time to think and to give up 
his criminal intention. Still less can there be question here of 
the violation of the man's right ; it would be too crude an error 
to confuse a request for criminal assistance with the right of 
learning the truth from the person who knows it. It would be 
equally mistaken to insist that the man who, for motives of 
moral duty, prevented the murder by the only possible means, 
had nevertheless told a lie and therefore acted badly. This would 
mean a confusion between the two senses of the word ' lie ' — 
the formal and the moral — the essential diiFerence between which 
has been indicated above. 

The upholders of the pseudo-moral rigorism may still seek 
refuge on rehgious ground. Although no human right is 
violated by putting the murderer on the false track, perhaps the 
divine right is violated by it. If there existed a commandment 
from above 'do not lie,' we should be bound to obey it un- 
conditionally, leaving the consequences to God. But the fact is 
that there exists in the word of God no abstract commandment ^ 
forbidding lying in general or lying in the formal sense, while 
the command to sacrifice our very souls — ^and not merely the 
formal correctness of our words — for our neighbours undoubtedly 
exists and must be fulfilled. It might however be thought that 
from the mystical point of view a means might be found to 
carry out the chief commandment with regard to love, and yet 

^ The commandment ' do not bear false witness against thy neighbour,' i.e. do not 
slander, has no bearing on this question, for it forbids not lying in general but only one 
definite kind of lie, which is always immoral. 


to avoid the formal lie. Thus we could, after surrendering the 
victim to his murderer, turn to God with a prayer to prevent 
the murder by some miracle. There certainly are cases on 
record of prayers producing the desired effect against all human 
probability. This however only happened in hopeless extremity, 
when there were no natural means left. But to require from 
God a miracle when you can yourself, by a simple and harmless 
means, prevent the disaster, would be extremely impious. It 
would be a different matter if the last human means available 
were immoral ; but to fall back upon the immorality of the 
formal lie as such would mean to beg precisely that which is in 
question and which cannot be logically proved, for it is based on 
the confusion between two utterly distinct ideas oi falsity and 
falsehood. In the instance we are considering, the answer to the 
murderer's question is undoubtedly ^wA?, but it is not to be con- 
demned as a lie. The foriml falsity of a person's words has as 
such no relation to morality, and cannot be condemned from the 
moral point of view. Falsehood, on the other hand, is subject to 
such condemnation as the expression of an intention which is in 
some way immoral, and it is in this alone that it differs from 
simple falsity. But in the present case it is impossible to find 
any such immoral intention, and consequently any falsehood. 

Put briefly, our long argument may be expressed as follows. 
An assertion which is formally false, that is, which contradicts 
the fact to which it refers, is not always a lie in the moral sense. 
It becomes such only when it proceeds from the evil will which 
intentionally misuses words for its own ends ; and the evil 
character of the will consists not in its contradicting any fact 
but in its contradicting that which ought to be. Now that which 
ought to be is of necessity determined in three ways — in relation, 
namely, to that which is below us, on a level with us, and above us 
— and amounts to three demands : to submit the lower nature to 
the spirit, to respect the rights of our fellow-creatures, and to be 
wholly devoted to the higher principle of the world. An expres- 
sion of our will can be bad or immoral only if it violates one of 
these three duties, that is, when the will affirms or sanctions 
something shameful, or injurious, or impious. But the will of the 
man who puts the would-be murderer off his victim's track does 
not violate any of the three duties — there is nothing either 


shameful or injurious or impious about his will. Thus it is not a 
case of a lie in the moral sense at all, or of a breach of any com- 
mandment, and, in allowing such a means of preventing evil, we 
do not allow any exceptions to the moral law. For reasons 
indicated, the given case cannot be said to fall under the moral 
rule within which it is sought, in contradiction to fact, to 
include it. 

One of the disputants maintains : since this is a lie, this 
bad means ought not to have been used even to save another 
person's life. The other side answers : although it is a he, it is 
permissible to use this bad means to save the life of another, for 
the duty to save another person's life is more important than the 
duty to speak the truth. Both these false assertions are cancelled 
by the third, true one. Since this is not a lie (in the moral sense), 
the recourse to this innocent means, necessary for the prevention 
of murder, is morally binding on the person.^ 


To make truthfulness into a separate formal virtue involves, 
then, an inner contradiction and is contrary to reason.. Truth- 
fulness, like all other 'virtues,' does not contain its moral 
quality in itself, but derives it from its conformity to the 
fundamental norms of morality. A pseudo-truthfiilness divorced 
from them may be a source of falsehood, that is, of false valuations. 
It may stop at the request that our words should merely be an 
exact reflection of the external reality of isolated facts, and thus 
lead to obvious absurdities. From this point of view a priest who 
repeated exactly what he was told at a confession would satisfy the 
demands of truthfulness. Real truthfulness, however, requires 
that our words should correspond to the inner truth or meaning 
of a given situation, to which our will applies the moral norms. 

The analysis of the so-called virtues shows that they have 

■• Although in this question Kant aides with the rigorists, in doing so he is really 
inconsistent with his own principle that an action, to be moral, must be capable of 
being made into a universal rule. It is clear that in putting the would-be murderer off 
the place where his victim is, I can, in reason and conscience, affirm my way of action 
as a universal rule : every one ought always thus to conceal the victim from the intending 
murderer ; and if I put myself into the latter's place, I should wish that I might, in the 
same way, be prevented from committing the murder. 


moral significance only in so far as they are determined by the 
three norms of morality. And although these norms are psycho- 
logically based upon the corresponding primitive feelings of shame, 
pity, and reverence, they do not entirely rest upon this empirical 
basis, but are logically developed out of the idea of right or truth 
(in the wide sense). Truth demands that we should regard our 
lower nature as lower, that is, should subordinate it to rational ends j 
if, on the contrary, we surrender to it, we recognise it not for 
what it really is, but for something higher — and thus pervert the 
true order of things, violate the truth, regard that lower sphere in 
a wrong or immoral way. Lilcewise, truth demands that we 
should regard our fellow-creatures as such, should admit their 
rights as equal to ours, should put ourselves into their place ; but 
if, whilst recognising ourselves as individuals possessed of full 
rights, we regard others as empty masks, we obviously depart from 
truth, and our relation to them is wrong. Finally, if we are 
conscious of a higher universal principle above us, truth demands 
that we should regard it as higher, that is, with religious devotion. 

This moral conception of right or truth could certainly not 
have arisen were not the feelings of shame, pity, and reverence, 
which immediately determine man's rightful attitude to the three 
fundamental conditions of his life, present in his nature from the 
first. But once reason has deduced from these natural data their 
inner ethical content and affirmed it as a duty^ it becomes an in- 
dependent principle of moral activity, apart from its psychological 
basis.^ One may imagine a man whose feeling of modesty is by 
nature little developed, but who is rationally convinced that it 
is his duty to oppose the encroachments of the lower nature, and 
conscientiously fulfils this duty. Such a man will prove in fact 
to be more moral in this particular respect than a man who is 
modest by nature, but whose reason is defenceless against the 
temptations of sense that overcome his modesty. The same is 
true of natural kindness (the point dwelt upon by Kant) and 
natural religious feeling. Without a consciousness of duty all 
these natural impulses to moral conduct are unstable, and can have 
no decisive significance in the conflict of opposing motives. 

But does the consciousness of duty or of right possess such a 
decisive power ? If righteousness from natural inclination is an 

1 See Kritika otvUtchonnih natchal (The Critique of Abstract Principles), 


unstable thing, righteousness from a sense of duty is an extremely 
rare thing. The idea of right as actually realised thus proves to 
be lacking in the characteristics of universality and necessity. The 
vital interests of moral philosophy and the formal demands of reason 
cannot acquiesce in this and consequently there arises a new^ 
problem for reason : to find a practical principle which would not 
only be morally right, but also highly desirable in itself and for 
every one, possessing as such the power to determine human 
conduct with necessity, independently of the natural inclinations 
of the soul or of the degree of spiritual development — a principle 
equally inherent in, understandable to, and actual for all human 

When reason dwells exclusively or mainly on this aspect of 
the case, the moral end is understood as the highest good (summum 
bonum), and the question assumes the following form :, Does there 
exist, and what is the nature of, the highest good, to which all 
other goods are necessarily subordinate as to the absolute criterion 
of the desirable in general ? 



{ji Critique of Abstract Hedonism in its Different Forms) 


The moral good is determined by reason as truth (in the wide 
sense), or as the right relation to everything. This idea of the 
good, inwardly all-embracing and logically necessary, proves in fact 
to be lacking in universality and necessity. The good as the ideal 
norm of will does not, in point of fact, coincide with the good as 
the actual object of desire. The good is that which ought to 
be, but (i) not every one desires what he ought to desire ; 
(2) not every one who desires the good is able to overcome, for 
its sake, the bad propensities of his nature ; and finally (3) the 
few who have attained the victory of the good over the evil in 
themselves — the virtuous, righteous men or saints — are powerless 
to overcome by their good " the wickedness in which the whole 
world lieth." But in so far as the good is not desired by a person 
at all, it is not a good for him ; in so far as it fails to affect the 
will, even though it may be affirmed as desirable by the rational 
consciousness, it is only an ideal and not a real good ; finally, in 
so far as it fails to empower a given person to realise the moral 
order in the world as a whole, even though it may affect the will 
of that person by making him inwardly better, it is not a 
sufficient good. 

This threefold discrepancy between the moral and the real 
good seems to render the idea of the good self-contradictory. 
The definition of the good as that which ought to be involves, 
in addition to its ideal content, a real demand that the moral 



cc)^tent should not remain merely theoretical, but that it should 
be realised in practice. The very conception of that which ought 
to be implies that it ought to he realised. The powerlessness of 
the good is not a good. It cannot be right that only a part of 
humanity should desire what they ought to desire, that only ?ifew 
should live as they ought, and that none should be able to make the 
world what it ought to be. All agree that the moral good and 
happiness ought to coincide ; the latter ought to be the direct, 
universal, and necessary consequence of the former, and express 
the absolute desirability and actuality of the moral good. But 
in fact they do not coincide ; the real good is distinct from 
the moral good, and, taken separately, is understood as welfare. 
The actual insufficiency of the idea of the good leads us 
to this conception of welfare, which, as a motive for action, 
apparently possesses the concrete universality and necessity which 
are lacking to the purely moral demands. For every end of 
action without exception is directly or indirectly characterised 
by the fact that the attainment of that end satisfies the agent or 
tends to his welfare, while by no means every end of action can 
be directly or even indirectly characterised as morally good. 
Every desire as such is apparently simply a desire for its 
satisfaction, i.e. for welfare ; to desire calamity or dissatisfaction 
would be the same as to desire that which is known to be 
undesirable, and would, therefore, be manifestly absurd. And 
if, in order to be realised in practice, the moral good must 
become the object of desire, the ethical principle will be seen to 
depend upon the practical idea (practical in the narrow sense) of 
the real good or welfare, which is thus raised to the rank of the 
supreme principle of human action. 

This eudaemonic principle (from the Greek evSatfwvia — 
the condition of blessedness, well-being) has the obvious advantage 
of not raising the question Why ? One may ask why I should 
strive for the moral good when this striving is opposed to my 
natural inclinations and causes me nothing except suiFering ; but 
one cannot ask why I should desire my welfare, since I desire it 
naturally and necessarily. This desire is inseparably connected 
with my existence, and is a direct expression of it. I exist as 
desiring, and I desire only that, of course, which satisfies me 
or what is pleasant to me. Every one finds his welfare either in 


what immediately gives him pleasure or in what leads to it — 
that is, in what serves as a means for bringing about pleasurable 
states. Thus welfare is defined more closely through the idea of 
pleasure (Greek ijSov^, hence the theory of Hedonism). 


When that which ought to be is replaced by that which is 
desired, the end of life or the highest good is reduced to pleasure. 
This idea, clear, simple, and concrete as it appears to be, involves 
insuperable difficulties when applied in the concrete. It is im- 
possible to deduce any general principle or rule of action from 
the general fact that every one desires that which is pleasing to 
him. The assertion that the final end of action is directly or 
indirectly pleasure, i.e. satisfaction of the subject desiring, is as 
indisputable and as pointless as the assertion, e.g., that all actions 
end in something or lead to something. In concrete reality we 
do not find one universal pleasure, but an indefinite multitude 
of all kinds of pleasures, having nothing in common between them. 
One person finds the highest bliss in drinking vodka, and another 
seeks "a bliss for which there is no measure and no name"; 
but even the latter person, when extremely hungry or thirsty, 
forgets all transcendental joys, and desires above all things food 
and drink. On the other hand, under certain conditions, things 
which had given enjoyment or seemed pleasant in the past cease 
to be attractive, and, indeed, life itself loses all value. 

In truth the idea of pleasure refers to a variety of accidental 
desires which differ according to the individual taste and 
character, the degree of mental development, age, external 
position, and momentary mood. No definite expression can be 
given to pleasure as a universal practical principle, unless it is to 
be ' Let every one act so as to get for himself, as far as possible, 
what is pleasing to him at the given moment.' This rule, on 
the whole firmly established and more or less successfully applied 
in the animal kingdom, is inconvenient in the human world for 
two reasons : (i) the presence in man of unnatural inclinations, 
the satisfaction of which, though yielding the desired pleasure, 
leads at the same time to clear and certain destruction, i.e. to 
what is highly undesirable for every one ; (2) the presence in 


man of reason, which compares the various natural impulses and 
pleasures with one another, and passes judgment on them from 
the point of view of the consequences they involve. In a 
rudimentary form we find such judgment even among the 
animals who act or refrain from action, not from motives of 
immediate pleasant or unpleasant feeling only, but also from 
considerations of further, pleasant or unpleasant, consequences 
following upon certain behaviour. But with animals these 
considerations do not extend beyond simple associations of ideas. 
Thus, the idea of the piece of meat seized without permission is 
accompanied by the idea of the blows of the whip, etc. The 
more abstract character of the human reason allows us, in addition 
to such elementary considerations, to make a general comparison 
of the immediate motives of pleasure with their remote conse- 
quences. And it is in following this line of reflection that the 
most thorough-going hedonist of the ancient philosophy, Hegesias 
of Cyrenae, came to the conclusion that from the point of view of 
pleasure life is not worth living. The desire for pleasure is 
either fruitless and in this sense painful, or, in achieving its 
object, it proves to be deceptive, for a momentary feeling of 
pleasure is inevitably followed by tedium and a new painful 
search after illusion. Since it is impossible to reach true pleasure, 
we must strive to free ourselves from pain, and the surest means 
to do so is to die. Such was the outcome of Hegesias's 
philosophy, for which he was nicknamed ' the advocate of death ' 
[TTua-iOdvaros). But even apart from such extreme conclusions, 
the analysis of the idea of pleasure makes it abundantly clear that 
' pleasure ' cannot furnish us with a satisfactory principle of 


A simple striving for pleasure cannot be a principle of action 
because in itself it is indefinite and devoid of content. Its 
actual content is wholly unstable and is to be found solely in the 
accidental objects which call it forth. The only universal and 
necessary element in the infinite variety of pleasurable states is 
the fact that the moment of the attainment of any purpose or 
object of desire whatsoever is necessarily experienced and is 


imagined beforehand as a pleasure, i.e. as satisfied or realised 
desire. But this elementary psychological truth does not contain 
the slightest indication either as to the nature of the object of 
desire or as to the means of obtaining it. Both remain empiric- 
ally variable and accidental. The point of view of pleasure does 
not in itself give us any actual definition of the highest good to 
which all other goods must be subordinate, and consequently 
gives us no rule or principle of conduct. This becomes still 
more clear if, instead of taking pleasure in the general sense of 
satisfied desire, we take concrete instances of it — i.e. particular 
pleasurable states. These states are never desired as such, 
for they are simply the consequence of satisfied volition and not 
the object of desire. What is desired are certain definite realities 
and not the pleasant sensations that follow from them. For a 
person who is hungry and thirsty, bread and water are im- 
mediate objects of desire and not a means for obtaining pleasure 
of the sense of taste. We know, of course, from experience that 
it is very pleasant to eat when one is hungry ; but a baby wants 
to suck previously to any experience whatever. And later, on 
reaching a certain age, the child has a very| strong desire for 
objects, about the actual pleasurableness of which it knows, as yet, 
nothing at all. It is useless to have recourse to ' heredity ' in 
this case, for then we should have to go as fer back as the chemical 
molecules, of which probably no one would say that they seek to 
enter into definite combinations simply because they remember 
the pleasure they had derived from it in the past. 

There is another circumstance which does not permit of 
identifying the good with the fact of pleasure. Every one knows 
from experience that the degree of the desirability of an object or 
a state does not always correspond to the actual degree of pleasure 
to be derived from the attainment of it. Thus, in the case of 
strong erotic attraction to a person of the opposite sex, the fact 
of possessing this particular person is desired as the highest bliss, 
in comparison with which the possession of any other person is 
not desired at all ; but the actual pleasure to be derived from this 
infinitely desirable fact has certainly nothing to do with infinity, 
and is approximately equal to the pleasure of any other satisfaction 
of the instinct in question. Speaking generally, the desirability 
of particular objects or their significance as goods is determined 


not by the subjective states of pleasure that follow the attainment 
of them, but by the objective relation of these objects to our 
bodily or mental nature. The source and the character of that 
relation is not as a rule sufficiently clear to us ; it manifests itself 
simply as a blind impulse. 

But although pleasure is not the essence of the good or the 
desirable as such, it is certainly its constant attribute. Whatever 
the ultimate reasons of the desirability of the objects or states 
that appear to us as good may be, at any rate there can be no 
doubt that the achieved good or the fulfilled desire is always 
accompanied by a sensation of pleasure. This sensation, in- 
separably connected with the good as the necessary consequence 
of it, may then serve to determine the highest good as a practical 

The highest good is from this point of view a state which 
affords the greatest amount of satisfaction. This amount is 
determined both directly through the addition of pleasant states 
to one another, and indirectly through the subtraction of the un- 
pleasant states. In other words, the highest good consists in the 
possession of goods which, in their totality, or as the final result, 
afford the maximum of pleasure and the minimum of pain.^ 
The actions of the individual are no longer prompted by a mere 
desire for immediate pleasure, but by prudence which judges of 
the value of the different pleasures and selects those among them 
which are the most lasting and free from pain. The man who 
from this point of view is regarded as happy is not one who at 
the given moment is experiencing the most intense pleasure, but 
one in whose life as a whole pleasant sensations predominate over 
the painful — who in the long-run enjoys more than he suffers, 
" The wise man," writes Aristotle, " seeks freedom from pain, and 
not pleasure " (0 ff>p6vifios rh aAiwov Skokei, ov rh -qSv). This is 
the point of view of eudaemonism proper or of prudent hedonism. 
A follower of this doctrine will not ' wallow in the mire of sensuous 
pleasures,' which destroy both body and soul. He will find his 

^ Apart from any pessimistic theories, freedom from pain is from the hedonistic 
point of view of more importance than the positive fact of pleasure. The pain of an 
unsatisfied and strongly individualised sexual passion, which not unfrequently drives 
people to suicide, is incomparably greater than, the pleasure of the satisfaction. The 
latter can be pronounced to be a great good only in so far as it gives relief from the 
great pain of the unsatisfied desire. 


greatest satisfection in the higher intellectual and aesthetic pleasures, 
which, being the most durable, involve the least degree of pain. 


In spite of its apparent plausibility, prudent hedonism shares 
the fate of hedonism in general : it too proves to be an illusory 
principle. When the good is determined as happiness, the 
essential thing is the attainment and the secure possession of it. 
But neither can be secured by any amount of prudence. 

Our life and destiny depend upon causes and factors beyond 
the control of our worldly wisdom ; and in most cases the wise 
egoist simply loses the opportunities of actual, though fleeting 
pleasure, without thereby acquiring any lasting happiness. The 
insecurity of all pleasures is all the more fatal because man, 
in contradistinction to animals, knows it beforehand : the inevit- 
able failure of all happiness in the future throws its shadow even 
over moments of actual enjoyment. But even in the rare cases in 
which a wise enjoyment of life does actually lead to a quantitative 
surplus of the painless over the painful states, the triumph of 
hedonism is merely illusory. It is based upon an arbitrary ex- 
clusion of the qualitative character of our mental states (taking 
quality not in the moral sense, which may be disputed, but simply in 
the psychological or, rather, in the psychophysical sense of the inten- 
sity of the pleasurable states). There is no doubt that the strongest, 
the most overwhelming delights are not those recommended by 
prudence but those to be found in wild passions. Granted that 
in the case of passions also the pleasure of satisfaction is out of 
proportion to the strength of desire, it is at any rate incom- 
parably more intense than the sensations which a well-regulated 
and carefully ordered life can yield. When prudence tells us that 
passions lead to ruin, we need not in the least dispute this 
truth, but may recall another : 

All, all that holds the threat of fate 
Is for the heart of mortal wight 
Full of inscrutable delight. 

No objection can be brought against this from the hedonistic 
point of view. Why should I renounce the ' inscrutable delight ' 
for the sake of dull well-being ? Passions lead to destruction. 


but prudence does not save from destruction. No one by means 
of prudent behaviour alone has ever conquered death. 

It is only in the presence of something higher that the voice 
of passions may prove to be w^rong. It is silenced by the thunder 
of heaven, but the tame speeches of good sense are powerless to 
drown it. 

The satisfaction of passions which lead to destruction cannot 
of course be the highest good ; but from the hedonistic point of 
view it may have distinct advantage over the innocent pleasures of 
good behaviour which do not save from destruction. It is true that 
intellectual and aesthetic pleasures are not only innocent but noble ; 
they involve limitations, however, which preclude them from 
being the highest good. 

(i) These 'spiritual ' pleasures are from the nature of the case 
accessible only to persons of a high degree of aesthetic and intel- 
lectual development, that is,, only to a few, while the highest 
good must necessarily be universal. No progress of democratic 
institutions would give an ass the capacity of enjoying Beethoven's 
symphonies, or enable a pig, which cannot appreciate even the 
taste of oranges, to enjoy the sonnets of Dante or Petrarch or 
the poems of Shelley. 

(2) Even for those to whom aesthetic and intellectual pleasures 
are accessible, they are insufficient. They cannot fill the whole 
of one's life, for they only have relation to some of our mental 
faculties, without affecting the others. It is the theoretic, con- 
templative side of human nature that is alone more or less satisfied 
by them, while the active, practical life is left without any definite 
guidance. The intellectual and aesthetic goods, as objects of 
pure contemplation, do not affect the practical will. 

Whilst we admire the heavenly stars 
We do not want them for our own. 

When a person puts the pleasures of science and of art above 
everything from the hedonistic point of view, his practical will 
remains without any definite determination, and falls easy prey 
to blind passions. And this shows that prudent hedonism is 
unsatisfactory as a guiding principle of life. 

(3) Its unsatisfactoriness is also proved by the fact that hedonism 
is powerless against theoretical scepticism, which undermines the 


value of the actual objects of intellectual and assthetic activity. 
Suppose I find a real enjoyment in the contemplation of beauty and 
in the pursuit of truth. But my reason — the highest authority 
for 'prudent' hedonism — tells me that beauty is a subjective 
mirage and that truth is unattainable by the human mind. My 
pleasure is thus poisoned, and, in the case of a logical mind, is 
altogether destroyed. Even apart from real consistency, how- 
ever, it is clear that the delight in what is known to be a 
deception cannot be the highest good^ 

(4) Now, suppose that our epicurean is free from such 
scepticism, and unreflectively gives himself up to the delights of 
thought and of creative art, without questioning the ultimate 
significance of these objects. To him these ' spiritual goods ' may 
appear eternal ; but his own capacity for enjoying them is 
certainly far from being so ; it can at best survive for a brief 
period his capacity for sensuous pleasures. 

And yet it is precisely the security or the continuity of pleasures 
that is the chief claim of prudent hedonism and the main advantage 
it is supposed to possess over the simple striving for immediate 
pleasure. Of course if our pleasures were abiding realities that 
could be hoarded like property, a prudent hedonist in his decrepit 
old age might still consider himself richer than a reckless 
profligate who had come to premature death. But since, in truth, 
past pleasures are mere memories, the wise epicurean — if he 
remains till his death true to the hedonistic point of view — will 
be sure to regret that for the sake of faint memories of the 
innocent intellectual and aesthetic pleasures he sacrificed oppor- 
tunities of pleasures far more intense. Just because he never 
experienced them, they will now evoke in him painful and fruitless 
desire. The supposed superiority of prudent hedonism to a 
reckless pursuit of pleasure is based upon an illegitimate confusion 
between two points of view. It must be one or the other. 
Either we mean the present moment of enjoyment, and in that 
case we must give up prudence which is exhibited even in animal 
behaviour, or we are thinking of the future consequences of our 
actions, and in that case the question must be asked : What 
precise moment of the future is to be put at the basis of our 
reckoning ? It would be obviously irrational to take any 
moment except the last, which expresses the /«/«/ result of the whole 


life. But at that last moment before death all hedonistic calculus 
is reduced to naught, and every possible advantage of the prudent 
over the reckless pleasures disappears completely. All pleasures 
when they are over cease to be pleasures, and we know this before- 
hand. Hence the idea of the sum of pleasures is meaningless : the 
sum of zeros is not any larger than a simple zero. 


The possession of external goods — whether they be pleasures 
of the moment or the more lasting happiness supposed to be 
secured by prudence — proves to be deceptive and impossible. Is, 
then, true welfare or the highest good to be found in freedom 
from external desires and affections which deceive and enslave 
man and thus make him miserable ? All external goods either 
prove to be not worth seeking, or, depending as they do upon 
external causes beyond the control of man, they are taken away 
from him before their essential unsatisfactoriness has even been 
discovered ; and man is thus made doubly miserable. No one 
can escape misfortune, and therefore no one can be happy so long 
as his will is attracted to objects the possession of which is acci- 
dental. If true welfare is the state of abiding satisfaction, then 
that man alone can be truly blessed who finds satisfaction in that 
of which he cannot be deprived, namely, in himself. 

Let man be inwardly free from attachment to external and 
accidental objects, and he will be permanently satisfied and happy. 
Not submitting to anything foreign to him, fully possessing him- 
self, he will possess all things and even more than all things. If 
I am free from the desire for a certain thing, I am more master of 
it than the person who possesses it and desires it ; if I am in- 
different to power, I am more than the ruler who cares for it ; if 
I am indifferent to everything in the world, I am higher than the 
lord of all the world. 

This principle of self-sufficiency (a-ura/aKeia), though expressing 
an unconditional demand, is in truth purely negative and con- 
ditional. In the first place, its force depends upon those very 
external goods which it rejects. So long as man is attached to 
them, freedom from such attachment is desirable for his higher 
consciousness and gives a meaning to his activity. Similarly, so 


long as man is sensitive to the accidental pains of the external 
life, triumph over them, steadfastness in adversity, can give him 
supreme satisfaction. But once he has risen above the attachment 
to external goods and the fear of external misfortune, what 
is to be the positive content of his life ? , Can it consist simply 
in the enjoyment of that victory ? In that case the principle 
of self-sufficiency becomes vain self-satisfaction and acquires a 
comical instead of a majestic character. The unsatisfactoriness of 
the final result renders it superfluous to insist upon the fact that 
the force of spirit necessary for the attainment of it is not given 
to every one, and even when it is, is not always preserved to the 
end. The principle of self-sufficiency thus proves to be lacking 
in power of realisation, and shows itself in this respect also to be 
only a pseudo-principle. Freedom from slavery to the lower 
accidental goods can only be a condition of attaining the highest 
good, but not itself be that good. A temple cleared of idols 
which had once filled it, does not thereby become God's holy 
tabernacle. It simply remains an empty place.^ 


The individual finds no final satisfaction or happiness either 
in the outer worldly goods or in himself {i.e. in the empty form of 
self-consciousness). The only way out seems to be afforded by 
the consideration that man is not merely a separate individual 
entity but also part of a collective whole, and that his true 
welfare, the positive interest of his life, is to be found in serving 
the common good or universal happiness. 

This is the principle of Utilitarianism, obviously correspond- 
ing to the moral principle of altruism, which demands that we 
should live for others, help all so far as we are able, and serve 
the good of others as if it were our own. In the opinion of the 
utilitarian thinkers their teaching must coincide in practice with 
the altruistic morality or with the commandments of justice and 

' The principle of self-sufficiency in its practical application partly coincides with 
the moral principle of asceticism ; but the essential difference between the two is in 
their starting-point and their ultimate motive. Asceticism seeks to attain the mastery 
of the spirit over the flesh, or the right attitude of man to what is lower than he. 
The demand for self-sufficiency springs from a desire for happiness, so that the principle 
of air&pKaa may be rightly described as hedonistic asceticism. 


mercy. « I must again repeat," writes J. S. Mill, e.g., " what the 
assailants of utilitarianism seldom have the justice to acknowledge, 
that the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is 
right in conduct, is not the agent's own happiness, but that of all 
concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, 
utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a dis- 
interested and benevolent spectator. In the golden rule of Jesus 
of Nazareth we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. 
To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as 
oneself, constitutes the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality." ^ 

But Mill does not see that the distinction between these two 
principles, the utilitarian and the altruistic, consists in the fact 
that the command to live for others is enjoined by altruism as the 
expression of the right relation of man to his fellow-creatures, or 
as a moral duty which follows from the pure idea of the good ; 
while, according to the utilitarian doctrine, man ought to serve 
the common good and to decide impartially between his own 
interest and those of others simply because, in the last resort, this 
course of action (so it is contended) is more advantageous or useful 
to himself. Moral conduct thus appears to stand in no need of 
any special independent principle opposed to egoism, but to be a 
consequence of egoism rightly understood. And since egoism is 
a quality possessed by every one, utilitarian morality is suited to all 
without exception, which, in the opinion of its followers, is an 
advantage over the morality of pure altruism, whether based upon 
the simple feeling of sympathy or upon the abstract conception of 
duty. Another advantage of utilitarianism is, it is contended, to 
be found in the fact that the utilitarian principle is the expression 
of the actual historical origin of the moral feelings and ideas. All 
of these are supposed to be the result of the gradual extension 
and development of self-interested motives, so that the highest 
system of morality is simply the most complex modification of 
the primitive egoism. Even if this contention were true, the 
advantage that would follow therefrom to the utilitarian theory 
would be illusory. From the fact that the oak tree grows out of the 
acorn and that acorns are food for pigs, it does not follow that oak 
trees are also food for pigs. In a similar manner, the supposition 
that the highest moral doctrine is genetically related to selfishness, 

^ !• S. Mill, Utilitarianism, and ed., London, 1864, pp. 24-25. 


that is, has developed from it through a scries of changes in the 
past, does not warrant the conclusion that therefore this highest 
morality in its present perfect form can also be based upon self- 
interest or put at the service of egoism. Experience obviously 
contradicts this conclusion : the majority of people — nowr as 
always — find it more profitable to separate their own interests from the 
common good. On the other hand, the assumption that selfishness 
is the only and the ultimate basis of conduct is contrary to truth. 

The view that morality develops out of individual selfishness 
is sufficiently disproved by the simple fact that at the early stages 
of the organic life, the chief part is played not by the individual 
but by the generic self-assertion, which, for separate entities, is 
self-denial. A bird giving up its life for its young, or a working 
bee dying for the queen bee, can derive no personal advantage 
and no gratification to its individual egoism from its act.^ A 
decisive predominance of the personal over the generic motives, 
and at the same time the possibility of theoretical and consistent 
selfishness, only arises in humanity when a certain stage in the 
development of the individual consciousness has been reached. 
In so far, then, as utilitarianism requires that the individual 
should limit and sacrifice himself, not for the sake of any higher 
principles, but for the sake of his own selfishness rightly under- 
stood, it can have practical significance only as addressed to human 
individuals at a definite stage of development. It is from this 
point of view alone that utilitarianism ought to be considered 
here, especially because the questions as to the empirical origin of 
any given ideas and feelings have no direct bearing upon the subject 
of moral philosophy. 


" Every one desires his own good ; but the good of each consists 
in serving the good of all ; therefore every one ought to serve 
the common good." The only thing that is true in this formula 
of pure utilitarianism is its conclusion. But its real grounds are 

' Concerning the primitive character of self-surrender or ' struggle for the life of 
others,' see, in particular, Henry Drummond, Ascent of Man. The fact that self- 
sacrifice of the individual for the species is based upon real genetic solidarity does not in 
the least prove that such sacrifice is the same thing as self-interest. 


not in the least contained in the two premisses from which it is 
here deduced. The premisses are false in themselves and placed 
in a false relation with one another. 

It is not true that every one desires his own good, for a great 
many persons desire simply what affords them immediate pleasure, 
and find that pleasure in things which are not in the least good 
for them, or, indeed, in things that are positively harmful — in 
drinking, gambling, pornography, etc. Of course the doctrine 
of the common good may be preached to such people also, but it 
must rest upon some other basis than their own desires. 

Further, even persons who admit the advantages of happiness 
or of lasting satisfaction over momentary pleasures, find their 
good in something very different from what utilitarianism 
affirms it to be. A miser is very well aware that all fleeting 
pleasures are dust and ashes in comparison with the real lasting 
goods which he locks up in a strong safe ; and utilitarians have 
no arguments at their command whereby they could induce him 
to empty his safe for philanthropic purposes. They may say to 
him that it is in his own interests to bring his advantage into 
harmony with the advantage of others. But he has fulfilled this 
condition already. Suppose, indeed, that he obtained his riches by 
lending money at interest ; this means that he has done service to 
his neighbours and helped them, when they were in need, by giving 
them loans of money. He risked his capital and received a certain 
profit for it, and they lost that profit but used his capital when 
they had none of their own. Everything was arranged to mutual 
advantage, and both sides judged impartially between their own 
and the other person's interests. But why is it that neither Mill 
nor any of his followers will agree to pronounce the behaviour of 
this sagacious money-lender to be a true pattern of utilitarian 
morality ? Is it because he made no use of the money he 
hoarded ? He made the utmost use of it, finding the highest 
satisfaction in the possession of his treasures and in the conscious- 
ness of his power (see Pushkin's poem The Avaricious Knight) ; 
besides, the greater the wealth hoarded, the more useful it will be 
to other people afterwards, so that on this side, too, self-interest 
and the interest of others are well balanced. 

The reason that utilitarians will not admit the conduct of a 
prudent money-lender to be the normal human conduct is simply 


that they really demand far more than mere harmony between 
self-interest and the interest of others. They demand that man 
should sacrifice his personal advantage for the sake of the common 
good, and that he should find in this his true interest. But this 
demand, directly contradicting as it does the idea of ' self-interest,' 
is based upon metaphysical assumptions that are completely foreign 
to the doctrine of pure utilitarianism, and is, apart from them, 
absolutely arbitrary. 

Actual cases of self-sacrifice are due either (i) to an immediate 
impulse of sympathetic feeling — when, for instance, a person saves 
another from death at the risk of his own life without any reflec- 
tions on the subject ; (2) or it may be due to compassion as the 
dominating trait of character, as in the case of persons who from 
personal inclination devote their life to serving those who suffer ; 
(3) or to a highly developed consciousness of moral duty ; (4) or, 
finally, it may arise from inspiration with some religious idea. 
All these motives in no way depend upon considerations of self- 
interest. Persons whose will can be sufficiently influenced by 
these motives, taken separately or together, will sacrifice them- 
selves for the good of others, without feeling the slightest neces- 
sity for motives of a different kind.^ 

But a number of people are unkind by nature, incapable of 
being carried away by moral or religious ideas, lacking in a clear 
sense of duty, and not sensitive to the voice of conscience. It is 
precisely over this type of person that utilitarianism ought to 
show its power, by persuading them that their true advantage 
consists in serving the common good, even to the point of self- 
sacrifice. This, however, is clearly impossible, for the chief 
characteristic of these people is that they find their good not In 
the good of others, but exclusively in their own selfish well-being. 

By happiness as distinct from pleasure is meant secure or lasting 
satisfaction ; and it would be utterly absurd to try and prove to 
a practical materialist that in laying down his life for others or 
for an idea he would be securing for himself an abiding satisfection 
of his own, that is, of his material interests. 

' A fifth possible motive is the thought of the life beyond the grave, the desire to 
obtain the eternal blessings of paradise. Although this motive is a utilitarian one in 
the broad sense, it is connected with ideas of a different order, which the modern utili- 
tarian doctrine rejects on principle. 


It is clear that the supposed connection between the good 
which each desires for himself and the true or real good, as the 
utilitarians understand it, is simply a crude sophism based upon 
the ambiguity of the word ' good.' First we have the axiom that 
each desires that which satisfies him ; then all the actual multi- 
plicity of the objects and the means of satisfaction is designated 
by one and the same term ' good.' This term is then applied to 
quite a different conception oi general happiness or of the common 
good. Upon this identity of the term which covers two distinct 
and even opposed conceptions the argument is based that since 
each person desires his own good and the good consists in general 
happiness, each person ought to desire and to work for the happi- 
ness of all. But in truth the good which each desires for himself is 
not necessarily related to general happiness, and the good which 
consists in general happiness is not that which each desires for 
himself. A simple substitution of one term for another is not 
enough to make a person desire something different from what 
he really does desire or to find his good not in what he actually 
finds it. 

The various modifications of the utilitarian formula do not 
make it more convincing. Thus, starting with the idea of 
happiness as abiding satisfaction, it might be argued that personal 
happiness gives no abiding satisfaction, for it is connected with 
objects that are transitory and accidental, while the general 
happiness of humanity, in so far as it includes future generations, 
is lasting and permanent, and may, therefore, give permanent 
satisfaction. If this argument is addressed to ' each person,' each 
can reply to it as follows : " To work for my personal happiness 
may give me no abiding satisfaction ; but to work for the future 
happiness of humanity gives me no satisfaction whatever. I cannot 
possibly be satisfied with a good which, if realised at all, would 
certainly not be my good, for in any case I should not then exist. 
Therefore, if personal happiness does not profit me, general 
happiness does so still less. For how can I find my good in 
that which will never be of any good to me ? " 

The true thought involved in utilitarianism' as worked out by 
its best representatives is the idea of human solidarity^ in virtue of 
which the happiness of each is connected with the happiness of 
all. This idea, however, has no organic connection with utili- 



tarianism, and, as a practical principle, is incompatible with the 
utilitarian, or, speaking generally, with the hedonistic range of 
ideas. One may quite well admit the fact of the oneness of the 
human race, the universal solidarity and the consequences that follow 
from it in the natural order of things, and yet not deduce from 
it any moral rule of conduct. Thus, for instance, a rich profligate, 
who lives solely for his own pleasure and never makes the good 
of others the purpose of his actions, may nevertheless justly point 
out that, owing to the natural connection between things, his 
refined luxury furthers the development of commerce and industry, 
of science and arts, and gives employment to numbers of poor 

Universal solidarity is a natural law, which exists and acts 
through separate individuals independently of their will and 
conduct ; and if, in thinking of my own good only, I unwillingly 
contribute to the good of all, nothing further can be required 
from me from the utiHtarian point of view. On the other hand, 
universal solidarity is a very different thing from universal 
happiness. From the fact that humanity is essentially one, it by 
no means follows that it must necessarily be happy : it may be 
one in misery and destruction. Suppose I make the idea of uni- 
versal solidarity the practical rule of my own conduct, and, in 
accordance with it, sacrifice my personal advantage to the common 
good. But if humanity is doomed to perdition and its ' good ' is a 
deception, of what use will my self-sacrifice be either to me or to 
humanity ? Thus, even if the idea of universal solidarity could, 
as a practical rule of conduct, be connected with the principle 
of utilitarianism, this would be of no use at all for the latter. 

In utilitarianism the hedonistic view finds its highest ex- 
pression ; if, therefore, utilitarianism be invalid the whole of the 
practical philosophy which finds the highest good in happiness or 
self-interested satisfaction stands condemned also. The apparent 
universality and necessity of the hedonistic principle, consisting 
in the fact that all necessarily desire happiness, proves to be 
purely illusory. For, in the first place, the general term 
' happiness ' covers an infinite multiplicity of different objects, 
irreducible to any inner unity, and secondly, the universal 
desire for one's own happiness (whatever meaning might be 
ascribed to this word) certainly contains no guarantee that the 


object desired can be attained, nor indicates the means for its 
attainment. Thus the principle of happiness remains simply a 
demand, and therefore has no advantage whatever over the principle 
of duty or of the moral good, the only defect of which is precisely 
that it may remain a demand, not having in itself the power 
necessary for its realisation. This defect is common to both prin- 
ciples, but the moral principle as compared with the hedonistic has 
the enormous advantage of inner dignity and of ideal universality 
and necessity. The moral good is determined by the universal 
reason and conscience and not by arbitrary personal choice, and is 
therefore necessarily one and the same for all. By happiness, on 
the other hand, every one has a right to understand what he likes. 

So far then we are left with two demands — the rational demand 
of duty and the natural demand for happiness — (i) all men must 
he virtuous and (2) all men want to he happy. Both these demands 
have a natural basis in human nature, but neither contains in 
itself suiEcient grounds or conditions for its realisation. More- 
over, in point of fact the two demands are disconnected ; very 
often they are opposed to one another, and the attempt to establish 
a harmony of principle between them (utilitarianism) does not 
stand the test of criticism. 

These demands are not of equal value, and if moral philosophy 
compelled us to choose between the clear, definite, and lofty — ■ 
though not sufficiently powerful — idea of the moral good and the 
equally powerless but also confused, indefinite, and low idea of 
welfare, certainly all rational arguments would be in favour of the 

Before insisting, however, upon the sad necessity of such a 
choice, we must consider more closely the moral basis of 
human nature as a whole. So far we have only considered it 
with reference to the particular development of its three partial 





When a man does wrong by injuring his neighbour actively or by 
refusing to assist him, he afterwards feels ashamed. This is the 
true spiritual root of all human good and the distinctive character- 
istic of man as a moral being. 

What precisely is here experienced ? To begin with, there is 
a feeling of pity for the injured person which was absent at the 
actual moment of injury. This proves among other things that 
our mental nature may be stirred by impulses more profound and 
more powerful than the presence of sensuous motives. A purely 
ideal train of reflection is able to arouse a feeling which external 
impressions could not awake ; the invisible distress of another 
proves to be more elFective than the visible. 

Secondly, to this simple feeling of pity, already refined by the 
absence of the visible object, there is added a new and still more 
spiritualised variation of it. We both pity those whom we did 
not pity before, and regret that we did not pity them at the 
time. We are sorry for having been pitiless — to the regret for 
the person injured there is added regret for oneself as the injurer. 

Biit the experience is not by any means exhausted by these 
two psychological moments. The feeling in question derives all 
its spiritual poignancy and moral significance from the third factor. 
The thought of our pitiless action awakens in us, in addition to 
the reaction of the corresponding feeling of pity, a still more 
powerful reaction of a feeling which apparently has nothing to do 
with the case — namely, the feeling of shame. We not only regret 
our cruel action, but are ashamed of it, though there might be 



nothing specifically shameful in it. This third moment is so 
important that it colours the whole mental state in question. In- 
stead of -saying, ' My conscience reproaches me,' we simply say, ' I 
am ashamed,' fai honte, ich schSme. In the classical languages 
the words corresponding to our term ' conscience ' were not used 
in common parlance, and were replaced by words corresponding to 
' shame ' — a clear indication that the ultimate root of conscience is 
to be found in the feeling of shame. We must now consider 
what this implies. 


The thought of having violated any moral demand arouses 
shame, in addition to the reaction of the particular moral element 
concerned. This happens even when the demands of shame in its 
own specific sphere (man's relation to his lower or carnal nature) 
have not been violated. The action in question may not in any 
way have been opposed to modesty or to the feeling of human 
superiority over material nature. Now this fact clearly shows 
that, although we may distinguish the three roots of human morality, 
we must not separate them. If we go deep enough they will be 
seen to spring from one common root ; the moral order in the 
totality of its norms is essentially a development of one and the 
same principle which assumes now this and now that form. The 
feeling of shame most vitally connected with the facts of the sexual 
life transcends the boundaries of material existence, and, as the 
expression of moral disapproval, accompanies the violation of every 
moral norm to whatever sphere of relations it might belong. In all 
languages, so far as I am aware, the words corresponding to our 
' stid ' (shame) are invariably characterised by two peculiarities : (i) 
by their connection with the sexual life (atSius — aiSoia, pudor — 
pudenda^ honte — parties honteuses, Scham — Schamteile), and (2) by the 
fact that these words are used to express disapproval of the violation 
of any moral demands whatsoever. To deny the specific sexual 
meaning of shame (that is, the special shamefulness of the carnal 
relation between the sexes), or to limit shame to this significance 
alone, one must reject human language and acknowledge it to be 
senseless and accidental. 

The general moral significance of shame is simply a further 


development of what is already contained in its specific and 
original manifestation with regard to the facts of the sexual life. 


The essence and the chief purpose of the animal life un- 
doubtedly consists in perpetuating, through reproduction, the 
particular form of organic being represented by this or by that 
animal. It is the essence of lifejir the animal and not merely in 
him, for the primal and unique importance of the genital instinct 
is inwardly experienced and sensed by him, though, of course, 
involuntarily and unconsciously. When a dog is waiting for a 
savoury piece, its attitude, the expression of its eyes, and its whole 
being seem to indicate that the chief nerve of its subjective 
existence is in the stomach. But the greediest dog will altogether 
forget about food when its sexual instinct is aroused— r-and a bitch 
will readily give up its food and even its life for its young. The 
individual animal seems in this case to recognise, as it were, 
conscientiously that what matters is not its own particular life as 
such, but the preservation of the given type of the organic life 
transmitted through an infinite series of fleeting entities. It 
is the only image of infinity that can be grasped by the 
animal. We can understand, then, the enormous, the fundamental 
significance of the sexual impulse in the life of man. If man is 
essentially more than an animal, his differentiation out of the 
animal kingdom, his inner self-determination as a human being 
must begin precisely in this centre and source of organic life. 
Every other point would be comparatively superficial. It is 
only in this that the individual animal becomes conscious of the 
infinity of the generic life, and, recognising itself as merely a final 
event, as merely a means or an instrument of the generic process, 
surrenders itself without any struggle or holding back to the 
infinity of the genus which absorbs its separate existence. And 
it is here, in this vital sphere, that man recognises the insufficiency 
of the generic infinity in which the animal finds its supreme goal. 
Man, too, is claimed by his generic essence, through him, too, it 
seeks to perpetuate itself — but his inner being resists this demand. 
It protests ' I am not what thou art, I am above thee, I am not 
the genus, though I am of'xt — I am not '•genus' but '■genius' I 


want to be and I can be immortal and infinite, not in thee only, 
but in myself. Thou wouldst entice me into the abyss of thy 
bad, empty infinity in order to absorb and destroy me — but I 
seek for myself the true and perfect infinity which I could share 
with thee also. That which I have from thee wants to be mingled 
with thee and to drag me down into the abyss above which I have 
risen. But my own being, which is not of thee, is ashamed of 
this mingling and opposed to it ; it desires the union which alone 
is worthy of it — the true union which is for all eternity.' 

The enormous significance of sexual shame as the foundation 
both of the material and the formal morality is due to the feet 
that in that feeling- man acknowledges as shameful, and therefore 
bad and wrong, not any particular or accidental deviation from 
sOme moral norm but the very essence of that law of nature which 
the whole of the organic world obeys. That which man is ashamed 
fl/"is more important than the general fact of his being ashamed. 
Since man possesses the feculty of shame, which other animals do 
not possess, he might be defined as the animal capable of shame. 
This definition, though better than many others, would not make 
it clear, however, that man is the citizen of a different world, the 
bearer of a new order of being. But the fact of his being 
ashamed above all and first of all of the very essence of animal 
life, of the main and the supreme expression of natural existence, 
directly proves him to be a super-natural and super-animal being. 
It is in this shame that man becomes in the full sense human. 


The sexual act expresses the infinity of the natural process, 
and in being ashamed of the act man rejects that infinity as 
unworthy of himself. It is unworthy of man to be merely a 
means or an instrument of the natural process by which the blind 
life-force perpetuates itself at the expense of separate entities 
that are born and perish and replace one another in turn. Man 
as a moral being does not want to obey this natural law of 
replacement of generations, the law of eternal death. He does 
not want to be that which replaces and is replaced. He is 
conscious — dimly at first — both of the desire and the power to 
include in himself all the fulness of the infinite life. Ideally he 


possesses it already in that very act of human consciousness, but 
this is not enough ; he wants to express the ideal in the real — 
for otherwise the idea is only a fancy and the highest self- 
consciousness is but self-conceit. The power of eternal life 
exists as a fact ; nature lives eternally and is resplendent with 
eternal beauty ; but it is ' an indifferent nature ' — indifferent to 
the individual entities which by their change preserve its 
eternity. Among these beings, however, there is one who 
refuses to play this passive part. He finds that his involuntary 
service to nature is a thing to be ashamed of, and that the 
reward for it, in the form of personal death and generic 
immortality, is not enough. He wants to be not the instrument 
but the bearer of eternal life. To achieve this he need not 
create any new vital force out of nothing j he has only to gain 
possession of the force which exists in nature and to make better 
use of it. 

We call man a genius when his vital creative force is not 
wholly spent on the external activity of physical reproduction, 
but is also utilised in the service of his inner creative activity in 
this or that sphere. A man of genius is one who perpetuates 
himself apart from the life of the genus and lives in the general 
posterity, even though he has none of his own. But if such 
perpetuation be taken as final, it obviously proves to be 
illusory. It is built upon the same basis of changing generations 
which replace one another and disappear, so that neither he who 
is remembered nor those who remember him have the true life. 
The popular meaning of the word genius gives only a hint of 
the truth. The true ' genius ' inherent in us and speaking most 
clearly in sexual shame does not require that we should have a 
gift for art or science and win a glorious name in posterity. It 
demands far more than this. Like the true '■genius^ i.e. as 
connected with the entire genus though standing above it, it 
speaks not to the elect only but to all and each, warning them 
against the process of bad infinity by means of which earthly 
nature builds up life upon dead bones — for ever, but in vain. 



The object of sexual shame is not the external fact of the 
animal union of two human beings, but the profound and 
universal significance of this fact. This significance lies 
primarily, though not entirely, in the circumstance that in such 
union man surrenders himself to the blind impetus of an 
elementary force. If the path on to which it draws him were 
good in itself, one ought to accept the blind character of the 
desire in the hope of grasping, in time, its rational meaning 
and of following freely that which at first commanded our 
involuntary submission. But the true force of sexual shame lies 
in the feet that in it we are not ashamed simply of submitting 
to nature but of submitting to it in a bad thing, wholly bad. 
For the path to which the carnal instinct calls us, and against 
which we are warned by the feeling of shame, is a path which is 
to begin with shameful, and proves in the end to be both pitiless 
and impious. This clearly shows the inner connection between 
the three roots of morality, all of which are thus ' seen to be 
involved in the first. Sexual continence is not only an ascetic, 
but also an altriiistic and a religious demand. 

The law of animal reproduction of which we are ashamed 
is the law of the replacement or the driving out of one generation 
by another — a law directly opposed to the principle of human 
solidarity. In turning our life -force to the procreation of 
children we turn away from the fathers, to whom nothing is 
left but to die. We cannot create anything out of ourselves — 
that which we give to the future we take away from the past, 
and through us our descendants live at the expense of our 
ancestors, live by their death. This is the way of nature ; she 
is indifferent and pitiless, and for that we are not responsible. 
But our participation in the indifferent and r pitiless work of 
nature is our own fault, though an involuntary one — and we 
are dimly aware of that fault beforehand, in the feeling of sexual 
shame. And we are all the more guilty because our participation 
in the pitiless work of nature, which replaces the old generations 
by the new, immediately affects those to whom we owe the 
greatest and special duty — our own fathers and forefathers. 
Thus our conduct proves to be impious as well as pitiless. 



There is a great contradiction here, a fatal antinomy, which 
must be recognised even if there is no hope of solving it. 
Child-bearing is a good thing ; it is good for the mother, wrho, in 
the w^ords of the Apostle, is saved by child-bearing, and is of course 
also good for those who receive the gift of life. But at the 
same time it is equally certain that there is evil in physical 
reproduction — not the external and accidental evil of any par- 
ticular calamities which the newly born inherit with their very 
life, but the essential and moral evil of the carnal physical act 
itself, in and through which we sanction the blind way of nature 
shameful to us because of its blindness, pitiless to the last 
generation, and impious because it is to our own fathers that we are 
pitiless. But the evil of the natural way for man can only be put 
right by man himself, and what has not been done by the man of 
the present may be done by the man of the future, who, being 
born in the same way of animal nature, may renounce it and change 
the law of life. This is the solution of the fatal antinomy : the 
evil of child-bearing may be abolished by child-bearing itself, 
which through this becomes a good. This saving character of 
chjld-bearing will, however, prove illusory if those who are born 
will do the same thing as those who bore them, if they sin and 
die in the same way. The whole charm of children, their 
peculiar human charm, is inevitably connected with the thought 
and the hope that they will not be what we are, that they will 
be better than we — not quantitatively better by one or two 
degrees, but essentially, — that they will be men of a different life, 
that in them indeed is our salvation — for us and for our fore- 
fathers. The human love for children must contain something 
over and above the hen's love ; it must have a rational meaning. 
But what rational meaning can there be in regarding a future 
scoundrel as the purpose of one's life, and in feeling delight and 
tenderness for him, while condemning the present scoundrels ? 
If the future for which children stand differs from the present 
only in the order of time, in what does the special charm of 
children lie ? If a poisonous plant or a weed will grow out of 
the seed, what is there in the seed to admire ? But the fact is 
that the possibility of a better, a different way of life, of a 


different and higher law which would lift us above nature with its 
vague and impotent striving for the fulness of light and power — 
this possibility, present both in us and in the children, is greater 
in them than in us, for in them it is still complete and has not yet 
been wasted, as in our case, in the stream of bad and empty reality. 
These beings have not yet sold their soul and their spiritual birth- 
right to the evil powers. Every one is agreed that the special 
charm of children is in their innocence. But this actual inno- 
cence could not be a source of joy and delight to us were we 
certain that it is bound to be lost. There would be nothing com- 
forting or instructive in the thought that their angels behold the 
face of the heavenly Father were it accompanied by the con- 
viction that these angels will be sure to become immediately blind. 
If the special moral charm of children upon which their 
aesthetic attractiveness is based depends upon a greater possibility 
open to them of a different way of life, ought we not, before 
bearing children for the sake of that possibility, actually to alter our 
own bad way ? In so far as we are unable to do this child-bearing 
may he a good and a salvation for us ; but what ground have we 
for deciding beforehand that we are unable ? And is the certitude 
of our own impotence a guarantee for the future strength of those 
to whom we shall pass on our life ? 


Sexual shame refers not to the physiological fact taken in itself 
and as such morally indifferent, nor to the sexual love as such which 
may be unashamed and be the greatest good. The warning and, 
later, the condemning voice, of sexual shame refers solely to the 
way of the animal nature, which is essentially bad for man, though 
it may, at the present stage of human development, be a lesser 
and a necessary evil — that is, a relative good. 

But the true, the absolute good is not to be found on this 
path, which begins, for human beings at any rate, with abuse. 
Sexual human love has a positive side, which, for the sake of brevity 
and clearness, I will describe as 'being in love.^ This fact is ot 
course analogous to the sexual desire of animals and develops on 
the basis of it, but clearly it cannot be reduced to such desire — 
unless man is to be altogether reduced to animal. Being in love 


essentially differs from the sexual passion of animals by its in- 
dividual, super-generic character : the object for the lover is this 
definite person, and he strives to preserve for all eternity not the 
genus but that person and himself w^ith it. Being in love differs 
from other kinds of individual human love — parental, filial, 
brotherly, etc. — chiefly by the indissoluble unity there is in it 
betwreen the spiritual and the physical side. More than any other 
love it embraces the whole being of man. To the lover both 
the mental and the physical nature of the beloved are equally 
interesting, significant, and dear ; he is attached to them w^ith an 
equal intensity of feeling, though in a different way.^ What is 
the meaning of this from the moral point of view ? At the time 
when all the faculties of man are in their first blossom there springs 
in him a new, spiritually- physical force which fills him with 
enthusiasm and heroic aspirations. A higher voice tells him that 
this force has not been given him in vain, that he may use it for 
great things ; that the true and eternal union with another being, 
which the ecstasy of his love demands, may restore in them both 
the image of the perfect man and be the beginning of the same 
process in all humanity. The ecstasy of love does not of course 
say the same words to all lovers, but the meaning is the same. It 
represents the other, or the positive, side of what is meant by 
sexual shame. Shame restrains man from the wrong, animal, way ; 
the exultation of love points to the right way and the supreme 
goal for the positive overflowing force contained in love. But 
when man turns this higher force to the same old purpose — to the 
animal work of reproduction — he wastes it. It is not in the least 
necessary for the procreation of children whether in the human or 
in the animal kingdom. Procreation is carried on quite successfully 
by means of the ordinary organic functions, without any lofty 
ecstasy of personal love. If a simple action h is sufficient to 
produce result c, and a complex action a + b is used instead, it is 
clear that the whole force of a is wasted. 


The feeling of shame is the natural basis of the principle of 
asceticism, but the content of that feeling is not exhausted by the 

1 See my article Smysl liubvi [The Meaning of Love), 


negative rules of abstinence. In addition to the formal principle 
of duty, which forbids shameful and unworthy actions and con- 
demns us for committing them, shame contains a positive side 
(in the sexual sphere connected with ' being in love '), which 
points to the vital good that is preserved through our con- 
tinence and is endangered or even lost through yielding to the 
' works of the flesh.' In the fact of shame it is not the formal 
element of human dignity or of the rational super-animal power 
of infinite understanding and aspiration which alone resists the 
lure of the animal way of the flesh. The essential vital wholeness 
of man, concealed but not destroyed by his present condition, 
resists it also. 

We are touching here upon the domain of metaphysics ; but 
without entering it or forsaking the ground of moral philosophy, 
we can and must indicate this positive aspect of the fundamental 
moral feeling of shame, indubitable both from the logical and from 
the real point of view. 

Shame in its primary manifestation would not have its peculiar 
vital character, would not be a localised spiritually - organic 
feeling, if it expressed merely the formal superiority of human 
reason over the irrational desires of the animal nature. This 
superiority of intellectual faculties is not lost by man on the path 
against which shame warns him. It is something else that is lost 
— something really and essentially connected with the direct object 
of shame ; and it is not for nothing that sexual modesty is also 
called continence^ 

Man has lost the wholeness of his being and his life, and in the 
true, continent love to the other sex he seeks, hopes, and dreams 
to re-establish this wholeness. These aspirations, hopes, and dreams 
are destroyed by the act of the momentary, external, and illusory 
union which nature, stifling the voice of shame, substitutes for the 
wholeness that we seek. Instead of the spiritually-corporeal inter- 
penetration and communion of two human beings there is 
simply a contact of organic tissues and a mingling of organic 
secretions ; and this superficial, though secret, union confirms, 
strengthens, and perpetuates the profound actual division of the 

■ The word translated by 'continence' is in the Russian tsckmudrie, which, by 
derivation, means ' the wisdom of wholeness ' (from tselost — wholeness, and mudrost — 
wisdom). — Translator's Note, 


human being. The fundamental division into two sexes or in 
half is followed by the division, conditioned by the external 
union of the sexes, into successive series of generations that 
replace and expel one another, and into a multitude of co- 
existing entities which are external, foreign, and hostile to one 
another. The wholeness or unity of man is broken in depth, 
in breadth, and in length. But this striving for division, this 
centrifugal force of life, though everywhere realised to some extent, 
can never be realised wholly. In man it assumes the inward 
character of wrong or sin, and is opposed to and in conflict with 
the wholeness of the human being, which is also an inward con- 
dition. The opposition expresses itself, to begin with, in the 
fundamental feeling of shame or modesty, which, in the sphere of 
sensuous life, resists nature's striving for mingling and division. It 
expresses itself also in the positive manifestation of shame — in the 
exultation of chaste love, which cannot reconcile itself either to 
the division of the sexes or to the external and illusory union. 
In the social life of man as already broken up into many, the 
centrifugal force of nature manifests itself as the egoism of each 
and the antagonism of all, and it is once more opposed by the 
wholeness which now expresses itself as the inner unity of 
externally separated entities, psychologically experienced in the 
feeling of pity. 


The centrifugal and the disruptive force of nature which 
strives to break 'up the unity of man both in his psychophysical 
and in his social life, is also directed against the bond which unites 
him to the absolute source of his being. Just as there exists in 
man a natural materialism — the desire to surrender slavishly, with 
grovelling delight, to the blind forces of animality ; as there exists 
in him a natural egoism — the desire inwardly to separate himself 
from everything else and to put all that is his own unconditionally 
above all that appertains to others — so there exists in man a natural 
atheism or a proud desire to renounce the absolute perfection, 
to make himself the unconditional and independent principle of 
his life. (I am referring to practical atheism, for the theoretical 
often has a purely intellectual character and is merely an error of 



the mind, innocent in the moral sense.) This is the most im- 
portant and far-reaching aspect of the centrifugal force, for it 
brings about a separation from the absolute centre of the universe, 
and deprives man not only of the possibility, but even of the desire 
for the all-complete existence. For man can only become all 
through being inwardly united to that which is the essence of all 
things. This atheistic impulse calls forth a powerful opposition 
from the inmost wholeness ,of man which in this case finds 
expression in the religious feeling of piety. This feeling directly 
and undoubtedly testifies to our dependence, both individual and 
collective, upon the supreme principle in its different manifesta- 
tions, beginning with our own parents and ending with the 
universal Providence of the heavenly Father. To the exceptional 
importance of this relation (the religiously moral one) corresponds 
the peculiar form which the consciousness of wrong assumes when 
it is due to the violation of a specifically religious duty. We are 
no longer 'ashamed' or 'conscience-stricken,' but 'afraid.' The 
spiritual being of man reacts with special concentration and 
intensity in the feeling of the ' fear of God,' wliich may, when 
the divine law has been even involuntarily violated, become panic 
terror [horror sacrilegii), familiar to the ancients. 

Horror sacrilegii (in the classical sense) disappears as man 
grows up spiritually, but the fear of God remains as the necessary 
negative aspect of piety — as ' religious shame.' To have fear of 
God, or to be God-fearing, does not of course mean to be afraid 
of the Deity, but to be afraid of one's opposition to the Deity, or 
of one's wrong relation to Him. It is the feeling of being out of 
harmony with the absolute good or perfection, and it is the 
counterpart of the feeling of reverence or piety in and through 
which man affirms his right or due relation to the higher principle 
— namely, his striving to participate in its perfection, and to 
realise the wholeness of his own being. 


If we understand shame rooted in the sexual life as the mani- 
festation of the wholeness of the human being, we shall not be 
surprised to find that feeling overflowing into other moral spheres. 

Speaking generally, it is necessary to distinguish the inner 


essence of morality both from its formal principle, or the moral 
law, and from its concrete expressions. The essence of morality 
is in itself one — the wholeness of man, inherent in his nature as an 
abiding norm^ and realised in life and history as moral doings as the 
struggle with the centrifugal and the disruptive forces of existence. 
The formal principle, or the law of that doing, is in its purely 
rational expression as duty also one : thou oughtest in all things to 
preserve the norm of human existence, to guard the wholeness of 
the human being, or, negatively, thou oughtest not to allow 
anything that is opposed to the norm, any violation of the 
wholeness. But the one essence and the one law of morality 
are manifested in various ways, according to the concrete 
actual relations of human life. Such relations are indefinitely 
numerous, though both logical necessity and facts of experience 
equally compel us, as we have seen, to distinguish three main 
kinds of relation that fall within the range of morahty — the 
relations to the world below us, to the world of beings like us, and 
to the higher. 

The roots of all that is real are hidden in darkest earth, and 
morality is no exception. It does not belong to a kingdom where 
trees grow with their roots uppermost. Its roots too are hidden 
in the lower sphere. The whole of morality grows out of the 
feeling of shame. The inner essence, the concrete expression, 
and the formal principle or law of morality are contained in that 
feeling like a plant in a seed, and are distinguished only by reflec- 
tive thought. The feeling of shame involves at one and the same 
time a consciousness of the moral nature of man which strives 
to maintain its wholeness, a special expression of that wholeness — 
continence, — and a moral imperative which forbids man to yield 
to the powerful call of the lower nature, and reproaches him for 
yielding to it. The commands and the reproaches of shame are 
not merely negative and preventive in meaning. They have a 
positive end in view. We must preserve our inner potential 
wholeness in order to be able to realise it as a fact, and actually 
to create the whole man in a better and more lasting way than the 
one which nature offers us. ' That's not it, that's not it ! ' says the 
feeling of shame, thus promising us the true, the right thing, for 
the sake of which it is worth while to renounce the way of the flesh. 
This way, condemned by shame, is the way of psychophysical 


disruption — spiritual as well as corporeal, — and to such disruption 
is opposed not only the spiritual, but also the physical wholeness 
of man. 

But realisation of complete wholeness, of which continence is 
merely the beginning, requires the fulness of conditions embracing 
the whole of human life. This realisation is complicated and 
delayed, though not prevented by the fact that man has already 
multiplied^ and that his single being has been divided into a 
number of separate entities. Owing to this new condition 
which creates man as a social beings the abiding wholeness of his 
nature expresses itself no longer in continence alone that safe- 
guards him from natural disruption but also in social solidarity 
which, through the feeling of pity, re-establishes the moral unity 
of the physically divided man. At this stage the difference 
between the moral elements, merged into one in the primary 
feeling of shame, becomes more clear. The feeling of pity 
expresses the inner solidarity of living beings, but is not identical 
with it, and it preserves its own psychological distinctness as 
compared with the instinctive shame. The formally- moral 
element of shame which at first was indistinguishable from its 
psychophysical basis, now develops into the more subtle and 
abstract feeling of conscience (in the narrow sense). Correspond- 
ing to the transformation of the carnal instinct into egoism, 
we have the transformation of shame into conscience. But the 
ultimate and fundamental significance of shame shows itself here 
also, for, as already pointed out, the words 'conscience' and 
' shame ' are interchangeable even in the case of actions that are 
purely egoistic and have nothing to do with sex. Morality is 
one, and being fully expressed in shame, it reacts both against 
the works of the flesh and (implicite) against the bad con- 
sequences of these works — among them, against the egoism of the 
man already made multiple. The specific moral reaction against 
this new evil finds its psychological expression in pity, and its 
formally-moral expression in conscience — this 'social shame.' 

But neither the moral purity of continence preserved by 
shame, nor the perfect moral solidarity which inspires our heart 
with equal pity for all living beings, empowers us to realise that 
which chaste love and all-embracing pity demand. And yet 
conscience clearly tells us ' you must, therefore you can.' 


Man is ashamed of the carnal way because it is the way of the 
breaking up imd scattering of the life-force, and the end of it is 
death and corruption. If he is really ashamed of it and feels it to 
be wrong, he must follow the opposite path of wholeness and 
concentration leading to eternal life and incorruptibility. If, 
further, he really pities all his fellow-creatures, his aim must be 
to make all immortal and incorruptible. His conscience tells him 
that he must do it, and that therefore he can. 

And yet it is obvious that the task of gaining immortal and 
incorruptible life for all is above man. But he is not divided by 
any impermeable barrier from that which is above him. In the 
religious feeling the hidden normal being of man reacts against 
human impotence as clearly as in the feeling of shame it reacts 
against carnal desires, and in pity against egoism. And conscience, 
assuming the new form of the fear of God, tells him : all that 
you ought to be and have the power to be is in God ; you ought 
and therefore you can surrender yourself to Him completely, 
and through Him fulfil your wholeness — gaining the abiding 
satisfaction of your chaste love and your pity, and obtaining 
for yourself and for all immortal and incorruptible life. Your 
impotence is really as anomalous as shamelessness and pitilessness ; 
this anomaly is due to your separation from the absolute principle 
of right and power. Through your reunion with Him, you must 
and can correct it.^ 

The supreme principle to which we are united through the 
religious feeling is not merely an ideal perfection. Perfection as 
an idea is possible for man. But man is powerless to make his 
perfection actual, to make his good the concrete good. Herein 
is the deepest foundation of his dependence upon the Being in 
whom perfection is given as an eternal reality, and who is the 
indivisible and unchangeable identity of Good, Happiness, and 
Bliss. In so far as we -are united to It by the purity and the 
whole-heartedness of our aspirations, we receive the corresponding 
power to fulfil them, the force to render actual the potential 
wholeness of all humanity. 

This is the reason why we are so ashamed or conscience- 

' In the Church prayer human impotence is put side by side with sins and trans- 
gressions ! " Lord, cleanse our sins ; God, forgive our transgressions ; Holy One, Visit 
and heal our frailties." Frailties is here used especially in opposition to holinen. 


stricken at every bad action or even a bad thought. It is not an 
abstract principle or any arbitrary rule that is violated thereby. 
But a false step is taken, a delay is caused on the only true path 
to the one goal that is w^orth reaching — the restoration of immortal 
and incorruptible life for all. 

Shame and conscience and fear of God are merely the 
negative expressions of the conditions that are indispensable to 
the real and great work of manifesting God in man. 


The moral good then is from its very nature a way of 
actually attaining true blessedness or happiness — such happiness, 
that is, as can give man complete and abiding satisfaction. 
Happiness (and blessedness) in this sense is simply another 
aspect of the good, or another way of looking at it — there is as 
much inner connection and as little possibility of contradictioij 
between these two ideas as between cause and eiFect, purpose and 
means, etc. One ought to desire the gooA for its own sake, but 
the purity of the will is not in the least marred by the conscious- 
ness that the good must itself ntctsszxWy mean happiness for the 
one who fulfils its demands. On the other hand, the circum- 
stance that it is natural to desire happiness does not in any way 
prevent us from understanding and bearing in mind the empirical 
fact that all happiness which is not fictitious or illusory must be con- 
ditioned by the good, i.e. by the fulfilment of the moral demands. 

If the law of blessedness or of true tv&ai[x.ovia is determined 
by the moral good, there can be no opposition between the 
morality of pure duty and eudaemonism in general. The good 
will must be autonomous ; but the admission that right conduct 
leads to true happiness does not involve the heteronomy of the 
will. Such an admission bases happiness upon the moral good, 
subordinates it to the latter, and is therefore in perfect agreement 
with the autonomy of the will. Heteronomy consists, on the 
contrary, in separating happiness from what is morally right, in 
subordinating the desirable not to the moral law, but to a law 
foreign to morality. Thus the fundamental opposition is not 
between morality and eudaemonism as such, but between morality 
and eudaemonism which is abstract or, more exactly, which 


abstracts happiness from its true and purely moral conditions, 
thus rendering it fictitious and illusory. 

Why then does the fulfilment of duty so often fail to give 
complete satisfaction ? I so little wish to avoid this objection that 
I w^ould make it stronger, and urge that human virtue never gives 
complete satisfaction. But is this virtue itself ever complete, 
and is there any one born 'Ik ^eA,ij/iaTos a-apKos' 'Ik ^eAiy/iaros 
avSpoi ' who has ever perfectly fulfilled his duty ? It is clear that 
the perfect good has never been realised by any individual human 
being ; and it is just as clear that a superhuman being, capable of real- 
ising the perfect good, will find complete or perfect satisfaction in 
doing so. It follows also that the autonomy of the will, that is, the 
power to desire the pure good for its own sake alone, apart from 
any extraneous considerations, and to desire the complete good — is 
merely a formal and subjective characteristic of man. Before it can 
become real and objective, man must acquire the power actually 
to fulfil the whole good, and thus obtain perfect satisfaction. 
Apart from this condition, virtue has a negative and insufficient 
character, which is not due to the nature of the moral principle 
itself. Thus when, in the first place, the moral principle demands 
that the spirit should have power over the flesh, this demand 
involves no external limitations. The norm is the perfect and 
absolute power of the spirit over the flesh, its complete and actual 
autonomy, in virtue of which it must not submit to the extrane- 
ous law of carnal existence — the law of death and corruption. In 
this respect, then, immortal and incorruptible life is alone a perfect 
good, and it also is perfect happiness. Morality which does not 
lead to a really immortal and incorruptible life, cannot in 
strictness be called autonomous, for it obviously submits to the law 
of material life that is foreign to it. Similarly, with reference to 
altruism the moral demand to help every one puts no limit to that 
help, and obviously the complete good here requires that we should 
obtain for all our fellow-beings perfect blessedness or absolute 
happiness. Our altruism does not fulfil this demand ; but the 
insufl[iciency of our good is due not to the moral law, whose 
requirements are unlimited, but to the law of limited material 
being that is alien to it. Consequently, altruism which obeys this 
foreign law cannot in the strict sense be called an expression of 
autonomous morality, but proves to be heteronomous. 



The good then is accompanied by dissatisfaction or absence of 
happiness only when and in so far as it is incomplete and imperfect, 
only in so far as the moral law is not fulfilled to the end and still 
gives way before another law, extraneous to it. But the perfect 
or the purely autonomous good gives also perfect satisfaction. 
In other words, the good is separated from happiness not by the 
nature of its demands, but by the external obstacles in the way of 
their realisation. Moral principle consistently carried out to the 
end, duty perfectly fulfilled inevitably leads to the highest good 
or happiness. The opposition, therefore, between the theory of 
general happiness and pure morality is merely accidental, due to 
the empirical imperfection of the human good or to a wrong 
conception both of good and of happiness. In the first case, the 
discrepancy between good and happiness (sufferings of the right- 
eous) proves merely the insufficiency or the incompleteness — the 
unfinished character of the given moral condition. In the second 
case, that of a wrong conception, the moral interest is absent 
altogether, both when the wrongly conceived good coincides or 
when it does not coincide with the wrongly conceived happiness. 
Thus, for instance, if a person zealously prays that he might pick 
up in the street a purse full of money, or win in a lottery, the 
failure of such prayer has no bearing whatever upon the question 
as to the disharmony between virtue (in this case religious virtue) 
and well-being, or good and happiness. For in this case both are 
wrongly understood. Prayer as a means to a low and selfish end is 
opposed to the Divine and the human dignity, and is not a real good ; 
nor is the acquisition of money which one has not deserved a blessing 
or real happiness. On the other hand, when a man does philan- 
thropic work not out of pity or altruistic motives, but only for the 
sake of obtaining an order of merit, and actually receives such an 
order, such coincidence betjveen the wrongly conceived good and 
the wrongly conceived happiness is of as little interest to ethics 
as the discrepancy between the two in the first case. There is 
no need to prove that although such philanthropy may be useful 
from the social and practical point of view, it is not a virtue, nor 
that an order of merit is but an illusory blessing. It is clear 


that true welfare can only be born of feelings and actions 
that are themselves well conceived, i.e. that possess moral 
dignity and are in harmony with the good j and that real good in 
its turn cannot in the long run lead to misfortune, i.e. to evil. 
It is very significant indeed that the same conception of ' evil ' 
equally expresses the opposition both to virtue and to happiness. 
Evil actions and evil fortune are equally called evil, which clearly 
indicates the inner kinship between the good and blessedness ; 
and indeed these two ideas are often identified in ordinary speech, 
one term being substituted for the other. The separation between 
moral good and happiness is then merely conditional : the absolute 
good involves also the fulness of happiness. 

The ultimate question as to the meaning of life is not then 
finally solved either by the existence of good feelings inherent in 
human nature, or by the principles of right conduct which reason 
deduces from the moral consciousness of these feelings. Moral 
sentiments and principles are a relative good, and they fail to give 
complete satisfaction. We are compelled both by reason and by 
feeling to pass from them to the good in its absolute essence, un- 
conditioned by anything accidental or by any external limitations, 
and consequently giving real satisfaction, and true and complete 
rneaning to life as a whole. 


That the pure moral good must finally be experienced as 
blessedness, that is, as perfect satisfaction or bliss, was admitted 
by the stern preacher of the categoric imperative himself. But 
the method whereby he sought to reconcile these two ultimate 
conceptions can certainly not be pronounced satisfactory. 

The great German philosopher admirably defined the formal 
essence of morality as the absolutely free or autonomous activity 
of pure will. But he was unable to avoid in the domain of 
ethics the one-sided subjective ideaUsm which is characteristic of 
his philosophy as a whole. On this basis there can only be a 
fictitious synthesis of good and happiness, only an illusory realisa- 
tion of the perfect moral order. 

Subjectivism, in the crude and elementary sense, is of course 
excluded by the very conception of the pure will, of a will, that is, 


free from any empirical and accidental motives, and determined 
only by the idea of absolute duty {das Sollen), i.e. by the universal 
and necessary norm of practical reason. In virtue of this norm 
the moral principle of our conduct (and of our every action) 
must, without inner contradiction, be capable of being affirmed 
as a universal and necessary law, applicable to ourselves in exactly 
the same way as to everybody else. 

This formula is in itself {i.e. logically) perfectly objective ; but 
wherein does its real power lie ? Insisting upon the unconditional 
character of the moral demand, Kant answers only for the 
possibility of fulfilling it : you must, therefore you can. But the 
possibility by no means warrants the actuality, and the perfect 
moral order may remain altogether unrealised. Nor is it clear 
from the Kantian point of view what is the ultimate inner founda- 
tion of the moral demand itself. In order that our will should be 
pure or (formally) autonomous it must be determined solely by 
respect for the moral law — this is as clear as A = A. But why 
should thig A be necessary at all ? Why demand a ' pure ' will ? 
If I want to get pure hydrogen out of water, I must of course 
take away the oxygen. If, however, I want to wash or to drink 
I do not need pure hydrogen, but require a definite combination 
of it with oxygen, H^O, called water. 

Kant must undoubtedly be recognised as the Lavoisier of moral 
philosophy. His analysis of morality into the autonomous and the 
heteronomous elements, and his formulation of the moral law, is 
one of the greatest achievements of the human mind. But we 
cannot rest satisfied with the theoretical intellectual interest alone. 
Kant speaks of practical reason as the unconditional principle of 
actual human conduct, and in doing so he resembles a scientist 
who would demand or think it possible that men should use pure 
hydrogen instead of water. 

Kant finds in conscience the actual foundation of his moral 
point of view. Conscience is certainly more than a demand — it 
is a fact. But in spite of the philosopher's sincere reverence for 
this testimony of our higher nature, it lends him no help. In the 
first place, the vo\ce of conscience says not exactly what according 
to Kant it ought to say, and secondly, the objective significance 
of that voice remains, in spite of all, problematic from the point 
of view of our philosopher. 


Kant, it will be remembered, pronounces all motives other than 
pure reverence for the moral law to be foreign to true morality. This 
is unquestionably true of motives of selfish gain, which induce us 
to do good for our own advantage. According to Kant, however, 
a man who helps his neighbour in distress out of a simple feeling 
of pity does not manifest a 'pure,' will either, and his action, too, 
is devoid of moral worth. In this case Kant is again right from 
the point of view of his moral chemistry ; but the. supreme court 
of appeal to which he himself refers — conscience — does not adopt 
this point of view. It is only as a joke that one can imagine — 
as Schiller does in his well - known epigram — a man whose 
conscience reproaches him for pitying his neighbours and helping 
them with heartfelt compassion : 

" Willingly serve I my friends, but I do it, alas, with affection, 
Hence I am plagued with the doubt, virtue I have not attained." 

" This is your only resource, you must stubbornly seek to abhor them. 
Then you can do with disgust that which the law may enjoin." 

In truth, conscience simply demands that we should stand in 
the right relation to everything, but it says nothing as to whether 
this right relation should take the form of an abstract conscious- 
ness of general principles, or directly express itself as an immediate 
feeling, or — what is best — should unite both these aspects. This 
is the question as to the degrees and forms of moral development 
and, though very important in itself, it has no decisive significance 
for the general valuation of the moral character of human conduct. 

Apart, however, from the circumstance that Kant's ethical 
demands are at variance with the deliverances of conscience 
to which he appeals, it may well be asked what significance can 
attach to the very fact of conscience from the point of view of 
' transcendental idealism.' The voice of conscience bearing witness 
to the moral order of the universe filled Kant's soul with awe. 
He was inspired with the same awe, he tells us, at the sight of the 
starry heaven. But what is the starry heaven from Kant's point of 
view ? It may have had some reality for the author of The Natural 
History and Theory of the Heavens^ but the author of the Critique of 
Pure Reason has dispelled the delusions of simple-hearted realism. 
The starry heaven, like the rest of the universe, is merely a presenta- 

' The chief work of Kant's pre-critical period. 


tion, an appearance in our consciousness. Though due to an 
unknown action upon us of something independent of us, the 
phenomenon as actually presented has nothing to do with those 
utterly mysterious entities, and does not in any way express the true 
nature of things : it entirely depends upon the forms of our sensuous 
intuition and the power of our imagination acting in accordance 
with the categories of our understanding. . And if Kant felt awe- 
struck at the grandeur of the starry heaven, the true object of 
that feeling could only be the grandeur of human intellect, or, 
rather, of intellectual activity, which creates the order of the 
universe in order to cognise it, 

Kant's ' idealism ' deprives the mental as well as the visible 
world of its reality. In his criticism of Rational Psychology he 
proves that the soul has no existence on its own account, that in 
truth all that exists is the complex totality of the phenomena of the 
inner sense, which are no more real than the events of the so-called 
external world. The connection between the inner (as between 
the ' outer ') phenomena is not due to the fact that they are ex- 
perienced by one and the same being, who suffers and acts in and 
through them. The connectedness or the unity of the mental life 
depends entirely upon certain laws or general correlations which form 
the definite order or the working mechanism of psychical events. 

If we do happen to find in this mechanism an important spring 
called conscience, this phenomenon, however peculiar it may be, 
takes us as little beyond the range of subjective ideas as does the ring 
of Saturn, unique of its kind, which we observe through the 


Kant suffered from his subjectivism in moral philosophy quite 
as much as he prided himself on it in theoretical philosophy ; and 
he was well aware that the fact of conscience is not in itself a way 
of escape. If conscience is merely a psychological phenomenon, 
it can have no compelling force. And if it is something more, 
then the moral law has its foundation not in us only, but also 
independently of us. In other words, this unconditional law 
presupposes an absolute lawgiver. 

At the same time Kant, who in spite of the influence of 


Rousseau had none of the moral optimism of the latter, clearly saw 
the gulf between what ought to be according to the unconditional 
moral law and what is in reality. He well understood that the 
gulf cannot be bridged, the good cannot completely triumph, the 
ideal cannot be perfectly realised in the conditions of the given 
empirical existence or of the mortal life. And so he ' postulated ' 
the immortality of the soul — of that very soul the existence of 
which he disproved in the Critique of Pure Reason. 

Thus, notwithstanding his critical philosophy, Kant wanted to 
find God behind the starry heaven above us,— and behind the 
voice of conscience in us an immortal soul in the image and 
likeness of God. 

He called these ideas postulates of practical reason and objects of 
rational faith?- But there is no faith about it, for faith cannot be 
a deduction, and there is not much rationality either, for the 
whole argument moves in a vicious circle : God and immortality 
of the soul are deduced from morality, while morality itself 
depends upon God and the immortal soul. 

No certainty can attach, from Kant's point of view, to these 
two metaphysical ideas themselves, but they must be admitted as 
valid truths, since the reality of the moral law demands the reality 
of God and immortality. Every sceptic or ' critical philosopher ' 
has, however, a perfect right to turn this argument against Kant. 
Since pure morality can only be based upon the existence of God 
and of an immortal soul, and the certainty of these ideas cannot be 
proved, pure morality dependent upon these ideas cannot be 
proved either, and must remain a mere supposition. 

If the moral law has absolute significance, it must rest upon 
itself and stand in no need of 'postulates,' the object of which 
has been so systematically put to shame in the Critique of Pure 
Reason. But if, in order to have real force, the moral law must 
be based upon something other than itself, its foundations must be 
independent of it and possess certainty on their own account. 
The moral law cannot possibly be based upon things which have 
their ground in it. 

Kant rightly insisted that moraHty is autonomous. This 
great discovery, connected with his name, will not be lost for 

' I confine myself here to these two postulates only, for the question of the freedom 
of will belongs to a different order of ideas. 


humanity. Morality is autonomous precisely because its essence 
is not an abstract formula hanging in the air, but contains in 
itself all the conditions of its realisation. The necessary presup- 
position of morality, namely, the existence of God and of an 
immortal soul, is not a demand for something extraneous to 
morality and additional to it, but is its own inner basis. God 
and the soul are not the postulates of the moral law, but the direct 
creative forces of the moral reality. 

The fact that the good is not finally and universally realised 
for us, that virtue is not always effective and never, in our 
empirical life, wholly effective, does not disprove the fact that the 
good exists and that the measure of good in humanity is, on the 
whole, on the increase. It is not increasing in the sense that 
individual persons are becoming more virtuous or that there is a 
greater number of virtuous people, but in the sense that the 
average level of the universally binding moral demands that are 
fulfilled is gradually raised. This is a historical fact, against which 
one cannot honestly argue. What then is the source of this in- 
crease of good in humanity as 'a collective whole, independently of 
the moral state of human units taken separately ? We know that 
the growth of a physical organism is due to the superabundance 
of nourishment which it receives from its actual physico-organic 
environment, the existence of which precedes its own. In a 
similar way, moral growth, which cannot logically be explained by 
the physical (for such explanation would in the long run mean 
deducing the greater from the lesser, or something from nothing, 
which is absurd)^ can also only be explained by a superabundance 
of nourishment, that is, by the general positive effect of the actual 
moral or spiritual environment. In addition to the inconstant 
and, for the most part, doubtful growth of separate human beings, 
traceable to the educative effect of the social environment, there 
is a constant and undoubtful spiritual growth of humanity, or of 
the social environment itself — and this is the whole meaning of 
history. To account for this fact we must recognise the reality 
of a superhuman environment which spiritually nourishes the 
collective life of humanity and, by the superabundance of this 
nourishment, conditions its moral progress. And if the reality 
of the superhuman good must be admitted, there is no reason to 
deny its effect upon the individual moral life of man. It is clear 


that this higher influence extends to everything capable of receiv- 
ing it. The eflFect of the social environment must not, however, 
be regarded as the Source, but only as one of the. necessary con- 
ditions of the moral life of the individual. If moral life, both 
collective and personal, be understood as the interaction betw^een 
man (and humanity) and the perfect, superhuman good, it cannot 
belong to the sphere of the tran^tory material events. In other 
w^ords, both the individual and the collective soul must be im- 
mortal. Immortality does not necessarily presuppose the soul as 
an independent substance. Each soul can be conceived as one 
of a number of inseparably connected, constant and therefore 
immortal relations of the Deity to some universal substratum of 
the life of the world, a closer definition of which does not directly 
belong to the scope of moral philosophy. We know nothing as 
yet — i.e. before a theoretical inquiry into metaphysical questions — 
about the substantiality of the soul or the substantiality of God ; 
but one thing we know with certainty : ' As the Lord liveth, my 
soul liveth.' If we give up this fundamental truth we cease to 
understand and to affirm ourselves as moral beings, that is, we 
give up the very meaning of our life. 



Neither the natural inclination to the good in individual men, 
nor the rational consciousness of duty, are in themselves sufficient 
for the realisation of the good. But our moral nature contains 
an element of something greater than itself. 

Even the first two foundations of morality — shame and pity — 
cannot be reduced either to a certain mental condition of this or that 
person, or to a universal rational demand of duty. When a man 
is ashamed of desires and actions that spring from his material 
nature, he does more than express thereby his personal opinion or 
the state of his mind at the given moment. He actually apprehends 
a certain reality independent of his opinions or accidental moods — 
the reality, namely, of the spiritual, supermaterial essence of man. 
In the feeling of shame the fundamental material inclinations are 
rejected by us as foreign and hostile to us. It is clear that the 
person wrho rejects and the thing which is rejected cannot be 
identical. The man who is ashamed of a material fact cannot 
himself be a mere material fact. A material feet that is ashamed 
of and rejects itself, that judges itself and acknowledges itself un- 
worthy, is an absurdity and is logically impossible. 

The feeling of shame which is the basis of our right relation 
to the material nature is something more than a simple psychical 
fact. It is a self-evident revelation of a certain universal truth, — 
of the truth, namely, that man has a spiritual supermaterial nature. 
In shame, and in ascetic morality founded upon it, this spiritual 
essence of man manifests itself not only as a possibility but also as 
an actuality^ not as a demand only but also as a certain reality. 



Men whose spirit dominates their material nature have actually 
existed in the past and exist now. The fact that they are com- 
paratively few in number simply proves that the moral demand has 
not yet been fully and finally realised ; it does not prove that it 
is not realised at all and remains a mere demand. It cannot be 
said that the moral principle of shame is lacking in actuality, or, 
what is the same thing, in actual perfection. 

In a similar manner, the feeling of pity or compassion which is 
the basis of man's right relation to his fellow-beings expresses not 
merely the mental condition of a given person, but also a certain 
universal objective truth, namely, the unity of nature or the real 
solidarity of all beings. If they were alien and external to one 
another, one being could not put himself into the place of another, 
could not transfer the sufferings of others to himself or feel 
together with others ; for compassion is an actual and not an 
imagined state, not an abstract idea. The bond of sympathy 
between separate beings, which finds expression in the funda- 
mental feeling of pity and is developed in the morality of altruism, 
is not merely a demand, but a beginning of realisation. This is 
proved by the solidarity of human beings, which exists as a fact, and 
increases Jthroughout the historical development of society. The 
defect of the social morality is not that it is not realised at all, but 
that it is not fully and perfectly realised. The feeling of shame 
gives us no theoretical conception of the spiritual principle in man, 
but indubitably proves the existence of that principle. The feeling 
of pity tells us nothing definite about the metaphysical nature of 
the universal unity, but concretely indicates the existence of a certain 
fundamental connection between distinct entities, prior to all ex- 
perience. And although these entities are empirically separate from 
one another, they become more and more united in the empirical 
reality itself. 


In the two moral spheres indicated by shame and pity, the good 
is already known as truth, and is realised in fact, but as yet im- 
perfectly. In the third sphere of moral relations, determined by 
the religious feeling or reverence, the true -object of that feeling 
reveals itself as the highest or perfect good, wholly and absolutely 



realised from all eternity. The inner basis of religion involves 
more than a mere recognition of our dependence upon a power 
immeasurably greater than we. Religious consciousness in its pure 
form is a joyous feeling that there is a Being infinitely better than 
ourselves, and that our life and destiny, like everything that exists, 
is dependent upon It — not upon an irrational fate, but upon the 
actual and perfect Good, the One which embraces all. 

In true religious experience the reality of that which is ex- 
perienced is immediately given ; we are directly conscious of the 
real presence of the Deity, and feel Its effect upon us. Abstract 
arguments can have no force against actual experience. When 
a man is ashamed of his animal desires, it is impossible to prove 
to him that he is a mere animal. In the very fact of shame he is 
aware of himself as being, and proves himself to be, more and 
higher than an animal. When in the feeling of pity we are 
affected by the sufferings of another person, and are conscious of 
him as of a fellow-being, no force can attach to the theoretical 
argument that perhaps that other, for whom my heart aches, is 
only my presentation, devoid of all independent reality. If I am 
conscious of the inner connection between myself and another, 
that consciousness testifies to the actual existence of the other no 
less than to my own. This conclusion holds good of the religious 
feeling as well as of pity and compassion. The only difference is 
that the object of the former is experienced not as equal to us but 
as absolutely superior, all-embracing, and perfect. It is impossible 
that a creature which excites in me a living feeling of compassion 
should not actually live and suffer. It is still more impossible 
that the highest, that which inspires us with reverence and fills 
our soul with unutterable bliss, should not exist at all. We 
cannot doubt the reality of that which perceptibly affects us, and 
whose effect upon us is given in the very fact of the experience. 
The circumstance that I do not always have the experience, and 
that other people do not have it at all, no more disproves its 
reality and the reality of its object than the fact of my not seeing 
the sun at night, and of persons born blind never seeing it at all, 
disproves the existence of the sun and of visipn. Moreover, 
many people have a wrong conception of the sun, taking it to be 
small and to move round the earth, and this, indeed, was the 
universal belief in former days. But neither the existence of the 


sun nor my certainty of its existence are in the least affected 
by this fact. In the same way, theological errors and con- 
tradictions do not in any way touch upon the real object of 
religion. Theological systems, like the astronomical ones, are 
the work of human intellect, and depend upon the degree of 
its development and the amount of positive knowledge. Correct 
theology, like correct astronomy, is important and necessary ; but 
it is not a thing of the first importance. The epicycles of the 
Alexandrian astronomers and the division of the solar system accord- 
ing to the theory of Tycho Brahe did not prevent any one from 
enjoying the light and the warmth of the sun ; and when these 
astronomers were proved to be in error, no one was led thereby to 
doubt the actual existence of the sun and the planets. In the 
same way the most felse and absurd theological doctrine cannot 
prevent any one from experiencing the Deity, nor cause any 
doubt as to the reality of what is given in experience. 

Abstract theoretical doubts had arisen in the past and still 
arise, not only with regard to the existence of God, but to all 
other existence. No one at all familiar with- philosophical specula- 
tion can imagine that the existence of the physical world, or even 
of our neighbours, is self-evident to the intellect. A doubt of that 
existence is the first foundation of all speculative philosophy 
worthy of the name. These theoretical doubts are disposed of in 
one way or another by means of various epistemological and meta- 
physical theories. But however interesting and important these 
theories may be, they have no direct bearing upon life and 
practice. Such direct significance attaches to moral philosophy, 
which is concerned with the actual data of our spiritual nature and 
the guiding practical truths which logically follow from them. 

The parallelism between spiritual and physical blindness is 
also borne out by the following consideration. It is well known 
that people blind from birth are perfectly sound in other respects, 
and have indeed an advantage over the persons with normal sight 
in that their other senses — hearing, touch — are better developed. 
In a similar way persons lacking in receptivity to the divine 
light are perfectly normal in all other respects, both practical 
and theoretical, and, indeed, they generally prove superior to 
others in their capacity for business and for learning. It is 
natural that a person who is particularly drawn to the absolute 


centre of the universe cannot pay equal attention to objects that 
are relative. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that in the 
special, worldly tasks of humanity, a great share of work and of 
success falls to the men for whom the higher world is closed. 
Such ' division of labour ' is natural, and it provides a certain 
teleological explanation of atheism which must serve some 
positive good purpose on the whole, whatever its negative causes 
in each particular case may be. If the work of history is 
necessary, if the union of mankind is to become a fact, 
if it is necessary that at a given epoch men should invent 
and make all sorts of machines, dig the Suez Canal, discover 
unknown lands, etc., then it is also necessary for the successful 
performance of all these tasks that some men should not be 
mystics, or even earnest believers. It is clear, of course, that the 
supreme will does not make any one an atheist for the sake of its 
historical purposes ; but once the complex chain of causes, 
finally confirmed by this or that voluntary decision of the man 
himself, has produced in a given case spiritual blindness, it is the 
business of Providence to give such a direction to this ' ill ' that 
it too should be not wholly devoid of ' good ' — that a subjective 
wrong should have an objective justification. 

Ill , 

The reality of the Deity is not a deduction from religious 
experience but the content of it — that which is experienced. If 
this immediate reality of the higher principle be taken away, 
there would be nothing left of religious experience. It would 
no longer exist. But it does exist, and therefore that which is 
given and experienced in it exists also. God is in us, therefore 
He is. 

However complete the feeling of our inner unity with God 
may be, it never becomes a consciousness of mere identity, of 
simple merging into one. The feeling of unity is inseparably 
connected with the consciousness that the Deity with which we 
are united, and which acts and reveals itself in us, is something 
distinct and independent of us — that it is prior to us, higher and 
greater than we. God exists on His own account. That whi,ch 
is experienced is logically prior to any given experience. The 


actuality of an object does not depend upon the particular way 
in which it acts. When one has to say to a person ' there is no 
God in youy every one understands that this is not a denial of the 
Deity,' but merely a recognition of the moral worthlessness of the 
person in whom there is no room for God, i.e. no inner 
receptivity to the action of God. And this conclusion would 
stand even if we had to admit that all men were thus 
impenetrable to the Deity. 

My compassion for another person does not in the least 
imply that I am identical with that other. It simply means that 
I am of the same nature as he is and that there is a bond of 
union between us. In the same way, the religious experience 
of God in us or of ourselves in God by no means implies that 
He is identical with us, but simply proves our inner relationship 
to Him — 'for we are also His offspring.' The relation is not 
brotherly, as with our fellow-beings, but filial — it is not the bond 
of equality, but the bond of dependence. The dependence is not 
external or accidental, but inward and essential. True religious 
feeling regards the Deity as the fulness of all the conditions of 
our life — as that without which life would be senseless and 
impossible for us, as the first beginning, as the true medium, and as 
the final end of existence. Since everything is already contained 
in God we can add nothing to Him from ourselves, no new 
content ; we cannot make the absolute perfection more perfect. 
But we can partake of it more and more, be united with it more 
and more closely. Thus our relation to the Deity is that of 
form to content. 

A further analysis of what in religious feeling is given as a 
living experience of the reality of Godhead shows that we stand 
in a threefold relation to this perfect reality, this absolute or 
supreme good, (i) We are conscious of our difference from it ; 
and since it contains the fulness of perfection,' we can only differ 
from it by negative qualities or determinations — by our im- 
perfection, impotence, wickedness, suffering. In this respect 
we are the opposite of the Deity, its negative other ; this is the 
lower earthly principle out of which man is created (his vkt] or 
causa materialis), that which is called in the Bible 'the dust of 
the ground ' {gaphar haadam). (2) But although we are nothing 
but a complex of all possible imperfections, we are conscious of 


the absolute perfection as of that which truly is, and in this 
consciousness are ideally united to it, reflect it in ourselves. 
This idea of the all-embracing perfection as the informing' 
principle of our life (etSos, causa formalis) is, in the words of the 
Bible, * the image of God ' in us (or, more exactly, ' the reflection' : 
zelem from zel, 'shadow'). (3) In God the ideal perfection is 
fully realised ; hence we are not content with being conscious 
of Him as an idea, or in reflecting Him in ourselves, but want, 
like God, to be actually perfect. And since our empirical 
existence is opposed to this, we seek to transform, to perfect 
our bad reality, and to assimilate it to the absolute ideal. 
Thus although in our given (or inherited) condition we are 
opposed to the Deity, we approximate to It in that towards 
which we aspire. The end of our life, that for the sake of 
which we exist (o5 evfKo, causa finalis\ is the ' likeness of God ' 

The religious attitude necessarily involves discriminating and 
comparing. We can stand in a religious relation to the higher 
only if we are aware of it as such, only if we are conscious of its 
superiority to us, and consequently of our own unworthiness. 
But we cannot be conscious of our unworthiness or imperfection 
unless we have an idea of its opposite — i.e. an idea of perfection. 
Further, the consciousness of our own imperfection and of the 
divine perfection cannot, if it be genuine, stop at this opposition. 
It necessarily results in a desire to banish it by making our 
reality conform to the highest ideal, that is, to the image and 
likeness of God. Thus the religious attitude as a whole logically 
involves three moral categories : (i) imperfection (in us) ; (2) 
perfection (in God) ; and (3) the process of becoming perfect or 
of establishing a harmony between the first and the second as the 
task of our life. 


The logical analysis of the religious attitude into its three 
component elements finds confirmation both from the psycho- 
logical and the formally moral point of view. 

Psychologically, i.e. as a subjective state, the typical religious 
attitude finds expression in the feeling of reverence, or, more 


exactly, of reverent love,^ This feeling necessarily involves (i) self- 
depreciation on the part of the person who experiences it, or his 
disapproval of himself as he actually is at the present moment ; (2) 
positive aw^areness of the higher ideal as of a reality of a different 
order, as of that which truly is — since to feel reverence for what 
one knows to be an invention or an image of fancy is psychologic- 
ally impossible; (3) a striving to work a real change in oneself, and 
to draw nearer to the highest perfection. Apart from this striving 
the religious feeling becomes an abstract idea. On the contrary, 
real striving towards God is the beginning of union with Him. 
By experiencing His reality in ourselves we become united to this 
supreme reality, and make a beginning — an inner and subjective 
one — of the future complete union of all the world with God. 
This is the reason why the true reHgious attitude is characterised 
by the feeling of bliss and enthusiasm, which the Apostle calls 
"the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" and "joy of the Holy 
Ghost." It is the prophetic spirit anticipating our complete and 
final union with the Deity : the union is not yet attained but it 
has begun, and we have a foretaste of the joy of fulfilment. 

From the formally moral point of view, the consciousness 
(involved in the religious feeling) that the supreme ideal actually 
exists and that we are out of harmony with it compels us to become 
more perfect. That which excites our reverence, affirms thereby 
its right to our devotion. And if we are conscious of the actual 
and absolute superiority of the Deity over ourselves, our devotion 
to it must be real and unlimited, tie. it must be the unconditional 
rule of our life. 

The religious feeling expressed in the form of the categorical 
imperative commands us not merely to desire perfection but to be- 
perfect. And this means that, in addition to having a good will, 
being honest, well-behaved and virtuous, we must be free from 
pain, immortal and incorruptible, and must, moreover, make all 
our fellow-beings morally perfect and free from pain, deathless, 
and incorruptible in their bodies. For, indeed, true perfection 
must embrace the whole of man, must include all his reality — and 
of that reality other beings, too, form part. If we do not want 

' This subjective basis of religion is best rendered by the German Ehrfiircht, 
ehrjurchtsvolle Liebe. It may also be called an ascending love, amor ascendem. See 
the conclusion of this book. 


that, in addition to moral perfection, they should be free from pain, 
immortal and incorruptible, we have no pity for them, that is, we 
are inwardly imperfect. And if we want it, but cannot do it, we 
are impotent, that is, our inner perfection is not sufficient to 
manifest itself objectively ; it is merely a subjective, incomplete 
perfection, or, in other words, it is imperfection. In either case 
we have not fulfilled the demand, " Be ye perfect." 

But what can the demand mean ? It is clear that by willing 
alone, however pure and intense the will may be, we cannot even — 
contrary to the claim of ' mental healing ' — save ourselves or our 
neighbours from toothache or gout, let alone raise the dead. 

The imperative ' be ye perfect ' does not refer, then, to separate 
acts of will, but puts before us a life-long task. A simple act of 
pure will is necessary for accepting the task, but is not in itself 
sufficient for fulfilling it. The process of becoming perfect is a 
necessary means to perfection. Thus the unconditional demand 
' be perfect ' means, in fact, '■ become perfect,^ 


Perfection, i.e. the completeness of good, or the unity of 
good and happiness, expresses itself in three ways : (i) as the 
absolutely real, eternally actual perfection in God ; (2) as 
potential perfection in human consciousness which contains the 
absolute fulness of being in the form of an idea, and in human 
will which makes that fulness of being its ideal and its norm ; 
(3) as the actual realisation of perfection or as the historical pro- 
cess of becoming perfect. 

The adherents of abstract morality put at this point a question, 
the answer to which they prejudge from the first. They ask 
what need is there for this third aspect^for perfection as con- 
cretely realised, for historical doing with its political problems and 
its work of civiHsation. If the light of truth and a pure will is 
within us, why trouble about anything further ? 

But the purpose of historical doing is precisely the finA justifi- 
cation of the good given in our true consciousness and our good 
will. The historical process as a whole creates the concrete 
conditions under which the good may really become common 
property, and apart from which it cannot be realised. The whole 


of historical development, both of the human and of the physical 
world, is the necessary means to perfection. No one will argue 
that a mollusc or a sponge can know the truth, or bring their 
will into harmony with the absolute good. It was necessary 
for more and more complex and refined organic forms to be 
evolved until a form was produced in which the consciousness of 
perfection and the desire for it could be manifested. This con- 
sciousness and desire contain, however, only the possibility of 
perfection ; and if man is conscious of and desires that which he 
does not possess, it is clear that the consciousness and the will 
cannot be the completion, but are only the beginning of his life 
and activity. A speck of living protoplasm, the production of 
which also demanded much creative energy, contains the possi- 
bility of the human organism. But that possibility could only 
be realised through a long and complex biological process. A 
formless bit of organic matter, or an insufficiently formed living 
being like a sponge, a polypus, a cuttle-fish, cannot of themselves 
produce man, though they contain him potentially. In the same 
way a formless horde of savages, or an insufficiently formed 
barbarian state, cannot directly give birth to the Kingdom of God, 
that is, to the image of the perfect unity of the human and the 
universal life — even though the remote possibihty of such unity 
may be contained in the thoughts and feelings of the savages and 

Just as the spirit of man in nature requires for its concrete 
expression the most perfect of physical organisms, so the spirit of 
God in humanity or the Kingdom of God requires for its actual 
manifestation the most perfect social body which is being slowly 
evolved through history. In so far as the ultimate constituents of 
this historical process — human individuals — are more capable of 
conscious and free action than the ultimate constituents of the 
biological process — the organic cells — the process of evolving the 
collective universal body is more conscious and voluntary in 
character than the organic processes which determine the evolu- 
tion of our corporeal being. But there is no absolute opposition 
between the two. On the one hand, rudiments of consciousness 
and will are undoubtedly present in all living beings, though 
they are not a decisive factor in the general process of perfecting 
the organic forms. On the other hand, the course and the final 


outcome of universal history are not exhausted by the conscious 
and purposive activity of historical persons. But in any case, at 
a certain level of intellectual and moral development the human 
individual must inevitably determine his own attitude with 
regard to the problems of history. 

The significance of the historical, as distinct from the 
cosmical, process lies in the fact that the part played in it by 
individual agents is always increasing in importance. And it is 
strange that at the present day, when this characteristic fact of 
history has become sufficiently clear, the assertion should be 
made that man must renounce all historical doing, and that the 
state of perfection for humanity and for all the universe will 
be attained of itself. 'Of itself does not, of course, in this 
connection mean through the play of blind physical forces 
which have neither the desire nor the power to create the 
Kingdom of God out of themselves, ' Of itself* here means by 
the immediate action of God. But how are we to explain from 
this point of view the fact that hitherto God has never acted 
immediately ? If for the realisation of the perfect life two 
principles only are necessary — God and the human soul, poten- 
tially receptive of Him — then the Kingdom of God might have 
been established with the advent of the first man. What was the 
need for all these centuries and millenniums of human history ? 
And if this process was necessary because the Kingdom of God 
can as little be revealed among wild cannibals as among wild 
beasts, if it was necessary for humanity to work up from the 
brutal and formless condition of separateness to definite organisa- 
tion and unity, it is as clear as day that this process is not yet 
completed. Historical doing is as necessary to-day as it was 
yesterday, and will be as necessary to-morrow, until the conditions 
are ripe for the actual and perfect realisation of the Kingdom of 


The historical process is a long and difficult transition from 
the bestial man to the divine man. No one can seriously 
maintain that the last step has already been taken, that the 
image and likeness of the beast has been inwardly abolished in 
humanity and replaced by the image and likeness of God, that 


there is no longer any historical task left demanding the 
organised activity of social groups, and that all we have to do is 
to bear witness to this fact and trouble no further. This view 
when expressed simply and directly is absurd, and yet it sums up 
the doctrine so often preached nowadays of social disruption and 
individual quietism — a doctrine which claims to be the expression 
of the unconditional principle of morality. 

The unconditional principle of morality cannot be a deception. 
But it is obvious deception for a separate individual to pretend 
that his own impotence to realise the ideal of universal perfection 
proves such realisation to be unnecessary. The truth which, on 
the basis of genuine religious feeling, our reason and our con- 
science tell us is this : — 

I cannot alone carry out in practice all that ought to be ; 
I cannot do anything alone. But, thank God, there is no such 
thing as ' I alone ' ; my impotence and isolation is only a 
subjective state which depends upon myself. Although in my 
thoughts and my will I can separate myself from everything, it is 
mere self-deception. Apart from these false thoughts and this 
bad will nothing exists separately, everything is inwardly and 
externally connected. 

I am not alone. With me is God Almighty and the world — 
that is, all that is contained in God. And if both these exist, there 
is positive interaction between them. The very idea of Godhead 
implies that things to which God stands in a purely negative 
relation, or things to which He is unconditionally opposed, 
cannot exist at all. But the world does exist, therefore there 
must be the positive activity of God in it. The world cannot, 
however, be the end of that activity, for it is imperfect. And if 
it cannot be the end, it must be the means. It is the system of 
conditions for realising the kingdom of ends. That in it which 
is capable of perfection will enter that kingdom with full rights ; 
all the rest is the material and the means for bringing it about. 
All that exists, exists only in virtue of being approved by God. 
But God approves in two ways : some things are good as a 
means and others as a purpose and an end [shabbath). Each 
stage in the world creation is approved of from above, but the 
Scriptures distinguish between simple and enhanced praise. Of 
all things created in the first six days of the world it says that 


they are good (tob, Ka\d), but only the last creature — man — is 
said to be very good {fob meodj KaXa Xlav). In another holy 
book it is said that the Divine Wisdom looks after all creatures, 
but that her joy is in the sons of man. In man's consciousness 
and his freedom lies the inner possibility for each human being 
to stand in an independent relation to God, and therefore to 
be His direct purpose, to be a citizen possessed of full rights in 
the kingdom of ends. Universal history is the realisation of this 
possibility for every one. Man wrho takes part in it attains to 
actual perfection through his ov^n experience, through his inter- 
action w^ith other men. This perfection attained by himself, 
this full, conscious, and free union with Godhead, is what God 
wills for its own sake — is an unconditional good. Inner 
freedom, i.e. voluntary and conscious preference of good to evil in 
everything, is, from the point of view of principle, the chief 
condition of this perfection or of the absolute good {tob meod). 

Man is dear to Godj not as a passive instrument of His will — 
there are enough of such instruments to be found in the physical 
world — but as a voluntary ally and participator in His work in 
the universe. This participation of man must necessarily be 
included in the very purpose of God's activity in the world. 
Were this purpose thinkable apart from human activity, it would 
have been attained from all eternity, for in God Himself there can 
be no process of becoming perfect, but only an eternal and un- 
changeable fulness of all that is good. Just as it is unthinkable 
for an absolute being to increase in goodness or perfection, so it 
is unthinkable for man to attain perfection at once, apart from 
the process of becoming perfect. Perfection is not a thing which 
one person can make a gift of to another ; it is an inner condition 
attainable through one's own experience alone. No doubt perfec- 
tion, like every positive content of life, is received by man from 
God. But in order to be capable of receiving it, in order to 
become a receptive form for the divine content (and it is in this 
alone that human perfection consists), it is necessary that man 
should through actual experience get rid of and be purged of all 
that is incompatible with this perfect state. For mankind as a 
whole this is attained through the historical process, by means of 
which God's will is realised in the world. 

This will reveals itself to the individual — not of course as he 


is in his false separateness, but as he truly is. And man's true 
nature consists not in separating himself from all else, but in 
being together with all that is. 


The moral duty of religion demands that we should unite our 
will with the will of God. The will of God is all-embracing, and 
in being united to it, or in entering into true harmony with it, 
we obtain an absolute and universal rule of action. The idea of 
God that reason deduces from what is given in true religious 
experience is so clear and definite that we always can know, if 
we want to, what God demands of us. In the first place, God 
wants us to be conformable to and like Him. We must manifest 
our inner kinship with the Deity, our power and determination 
to attain free perfection. This idea can be expressed in the form 
of the following rule : Have God in you. 

A man who has God in him regards everything in accordance 
with God's thought or ' from the point of view of the absolute.' 
The second rule, then, is Regard everything in God's way. 

God's relation to everything is not indifference. Inanimate 
objects are indifferent to good and evil, but this lower state cannot 
be attributed to the Deity. Although, according to the words of 
the Gospel, God lets the sun shine on the just and the unjust, it 
is precisely this single light which, in illuminating different persons 
and actions, shows the difference between them. Although, 
according to the same words, God sends His rain to the righteous 
and to the sinners, yet this one and the same moisture of God's 
grace brings forth from the different soil and different seed fruits 
that are not identical. God cannot be said either to affirm evil or 
to deny it unconditionally. The first is impossible, because in 
that case evil would be good, and the second is impossible, because 
in that case evil could not exist at all — and yet it does exist. 
God denies evil as final or abiding, and in virtue of this denial it 
perishes. But He permits it as a transitory condition of freedom, i.e. 
of a greater good. On the one hand, God permits evil inasmuch as a 
direct denial or annihilation of it would violate human freedom and 
be a greater evil, for it would render perfect (i.^.-free) good impossible 
in the world ; on the other hand, God permits evil inasmuch as it 


is possible for His Wisdom to extract from evil a greater good or 
the greatest possible perfection, and this is the cause of the existence 
of evil.^ Evil, then, is something subservient, and an unconditional 
rejection of it wrould be wrong. We must regard evil also in God's 
way, i.e. without being indifferent to it, we must rise above absolute 
opposition to it and allow it — when it does not proceed from us 
— as a means of perfection, in so far as a greater good can be 
derived from it. We must recognise the possibility^ i.e. the 
potentiality, of good in all that is, and must work for that 
possibility to become an actuality. The direct possibility of 
perfect good is given in rational and free beings like ourselves. 
Recognising our own unconditional significance as bearers of the 
consciousness of the absolute ideal (the image of God), and of the 
j/r/w/«^ to realise it completely (the likeness of God), we must in 
justice recognise the same thing of all other persons. Our duty 
of attaining perfection we must regard not merely as the task of 
the individual life, but as an inseparable part of the world-wide 
work of history. 

The unconditional principle of morality can therefore be 
expressed as follows : — 

In complete inner harmony with the higher will and recognising 
the absolute worth or significance of all other persons, since they too are 
in the image and likeness of God, participate, as fully as in thee lies, 
in the work of making thyself and every one more perfect, so that the 
Kingdom of God may be finally revealed in the world. 


It will be easily seen that the unconditional principle of 
morality includes and gives expression to all positive moral 
principles, and that at the same time it completely satisfies the 
natural demand for happiness in the sense of possessing the 
highest good. 

In demanding that man should be a friend and helper of God, 
the unconditional principle of morality does not cancel the 
particular moral demands. On the "contrary, it confirms them j 

' I must content myself here with a general logical reflection. A real solution of 
the question must be based upon a metaphysical inquiry into the nature of God and the 
origin of evil in the world. 


it puts them in a higher light and gives them a supreme 

In the first place, it refers to the religious basis of morality, of 
which it is the direct development and the final expression. The 
higher demand presupposes the low^er. A babe at the breast 
naturally cannot be his father's friend and helper. In the same 
way, a man spiritually under age is inwardly precluded from 
standing in the relation of free and immediate harmony with 
God. In both cases authoritative guidance and education is 
necessary. This is the justification of external religious institu- 
tions — of sacrifices, hierarchy, etc. Apart from their profound 
mystical significance, which makes them an abiding link between 
heaven and earth, they are undoubtedly of the first importance 
to humanity from the pedagogical point of view. There never 
was, and never could be, a time when all men would be spiritually 
equal to one another. Making use of this inevitable inequality, 
Providence has from the first elected the best to be the spiritual 
teachers of the crowd. Of course the inequality was merely 
relative — the teachers of savages were half-savage themselves. 
Therefore the character of religious institutions changes and 
becomes more perfect in conformity with the general course of 
history. But so long as the historical process is not yet com- 
pleted, no one could in all conscience consider unnecessary for 
himself and for others the mediation of religious institutions 
which connect us with the work of God that has already found 
concrete embodiment in history* And even if such a man could 
be found, he would certainly not reject the 'external' side of 
religion. Indeed for him it would not be merely external^ for he 
would understand the fulness of the inner meaning inherent in it 
and its connection with the future realisation of that meaning. 
A person who is above school age and has reached the heights of 
learning has certainly no reason to go to school. But he has still 
less reason to reject schools and to persuade the schoolboys that 
their teachers are a pack of idle swindlers, and that they themselves 
are perfect men or that educational institutions are the root of all 
evil and ought to be wiped ofF the face of the earth. 

The true ' friend of God ' understands and cares for all mani- 
festations of the divine both in the physical world and, still more 
so, in human history. And if he stands on one of the upper 


rungs of the ladder that leads from man to God, he will certainly 
not cut down the lower rungs on which his brethren are standing 
and which are still supporting him too. 

Religious feeling raised to the level of an absolute and all- 
embracing principle of life lifts to the same height the other two 
fundamental moral feelings, as well as the duties that follow from 
them — namely, the feeling of pity which determines our right 
relation to our fellow-creatures, and the feeling of shame upon 
which our right attitude to the lower material nature is based. 


Pity which we feel towards a fellow-being acquires another 
significance when we see in that being the image and likeness of 
God. We then recognise the unconditional worth of that person ; 
we recognise that he is an end in himself for God, and still more 
must be so for us. We realise that God Himself does not treat 
him merely as a means. IVe respect that being since God respects 
him, or, more exactly, we consider him since God considers him. 
This higher point of view does not exclude pity in cases when it 
would naturally be felt— on the contrary, pity becomes more 
poignant and profound. I pity in that being not merely his 
sufferings but also the cause of them — I regret that his actual 
reality falls so short of his true dignity and possible perfection. 
The duty that follows from the altruistic sentiment also acquires 
a higher meaning. We can no longer be content with refraining 
from iAjuries to our neighbour or even with assisting him in his 
troubles. We must help him to become more perfect, so that 
the image and likeness of God which we recognise in him might 
be actually realised. But no human being can alone realise either 
in himself or in any one else that absolute fulness of perfec- 
tion in seeking which we are likened to God. Altruism at its 
highest religious stage compels us, therefore, actively to participate 
in the universal historical process which brings about the con- 
ditions necessary for the revelation of the Kingdom of God. Con- 
sequently it demands that we should take part in the collective 
organisations — especially in that of the state as inclusive of all the 
others — by means of which the historical process is, by the will 
of Providence, carried on. Not every one is called to political 


activity or to the service of the state in the narrow sense of the 
term. But it is the duty of every one to serve, in his own place, 
that same purpose — the common good — which the state ought 
to serve also. 

- In the domain of religipn the unconditional principle of 
morality leads us to accept ecclesiastical institutions and traditions 
as educational means whereby humanity is led in the end to 
ultimate perfection. In a similar way in the domain of purely 
human relations inspired by pity and altruism the unconditional 
moral principle demands that we should give active service 
to the collective organisations, such as the state, by means of 
which Providence prevents humanity from material disruption, 
holds it together, and enables it to become more perfect. 
We know that only in virtue of that which has been and is 
being given to humanity by the historical forms of religion 
can we truly attain to that free and perfect union with the 
Divine, the possibility and the promise of which are contained 
in our inner religious feeling. Similarly, we know that apart 
from the concentrated and organised social force which is found 
in the state we cannot give all our neighbours that help which 
we are bidden to give both by the simple moral feeling of 
pity for their sufferings and by the religious principle of respect 
for their unconditional dignity which demands to be realised. 

In both cases we connect our allegiance to the ecclesiastical 
and the political forms of social life with the unconditional 
principle of morality, and in doing so we recognise that allegiance 
as conditional, as determined by this higher truth and dependent 
upon it. Institutions which ought to serve the good in humanity 
may more or less deviate from their purpose or even be wholly false 
to it. In that case the duty of man true to the good consists neither 
in entirely rejecting the institutions in question on the ground of 
the abuses connected with them — which would be unjust — nor in 
blindly submitting to them both in good and in evil, which would 
be impious and unworthy. His duty would be to try and actively 
reform the institutions, insisting on what their function ought to 
be. If we know why and for what sake we ought to submit to a 
certain , institution, we also know the form and the measure ot 
such submission. It will never become unlimited, blind, and 
slavish. We shall never be passive and senseless instruments of 



external forces ; we shall never put the Church in the place of 
God, or the state in the place of humanity. We shall not take 
the transitory forms and instruments of the providential work in 
history for the essence and the purpose of that work. We sub- 
ordinate our personal impotence and insufficiency to the historical 
forces, but in our higher consciousness we regard them in God's 
way, using them as the means or the conditions of the perfect 
good. In doing so we do not renounce our human dignity — 
rather we affirm it and realise it as unconditional. 

When I make use of physical force and move my arms in 
order to save a drowning man or to give food to the hungry, 
I do not in any way detract from my moral dignity ; on the 
contrary, I increase it. Why then should it be a detriment, 
rather than a gain, to our morality to take advantage of the 
spiritually-material forces of the state and use them for the good 
of nations and of humanity as a whole ? To submit to material 
powers is shameful, but to deny their right to existence is perilous 
and unjust. In any case the unconditional principle of morality 
extends to the domain of matter also. 


The natural feeling of shame bears witness to the autonomy 
of our being, and safeguards its wholeness from the destructive 
intrusion of foreign elements. At the lower stages of develop- 
ment, when sensuous life predominates, special significance 
attaches to bodily chastity, and the feeling of shame is originally 
connected with this side of life. But as moral feelings and 
relations are developed further, man begins to form a wider 
conception of his dignity. He is ashamed not only of yielding to 
the lower material nature, but also of all violations of duty in 
relation to gods and men. The unconscious instinct of shame 
becomes now, as we have seen, the clear voice of conscience which 
reproaches man not for carnal sins alone but also for all wrong- 
doing — for all unjust and pitiless actions and feelings. At the 
same time there is developed a special feeling of the fear of God, 
which restrains us from coming into conflict with anything that 
expresses for us the holiness of God. When the relation between 
man and God is raised to the level of absolute consciousness, the 


feeling which protects the wholeness of man is also raised to a new 
and final stage. What is now being safeguarded is not the relative 
but the absolute dignity of man, that is, his ideal perfection which 
is to be realised. The negative voice of shame, conscience, and the 
fear of God becomes at this stage a direct and positive conscious- 
ness in man of his own divinity or a consciousness of God in him. 
This consciousness no longer reproaches him for doing what is 
bad and injurious, but for feeling and acting as an imperfect being, 
while perfection is his duty and his goal. Instead of the demon 
which restrained Socrates from wrong actions, we hear the Divine 
voice : " Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." 
If perfection is to be perfectly realised it must include the 
material life. The unconditional principle gives a new mean- 
ing to the ascetic morality. We refrain from carnal sins no 
longer out of the instinct of spiritual self-preservation or for the 
sake of increasing our inner power, but for the sake of our body 
itself, as the uttermost limit of the manifestation of God in man, 
as the predestined abode of the Holy Ghost. 



The unconditional principle of morality, logically involved in 
religious experience, contains the complete good (or the right 
relation of all to everything) not merely as a demand or an idea, 
but as an actual povi^er that can fulfil this demand and create 
the perfect moral order or the Kingdom of God in wrhich the 
absolute significance of every being is realised. It is by virtue of 
this supreme principle alone that the moral good can give us final 
and complete satisfaction, can be for us a true blessing and a 
source of infinite bliss. 

We experience the reality of God not as something in- 
definitely divine — SatfiSviov ti, but we are conscious of Him as He 
really is, all-perfect or absolute. And our soul too is revealed to 
us in our inner experience not merely as something distinct from 
material facts, but as a positive force which struggles with the 
material processes and overcomes them. The experience of 
physiological asceticism does more than support the truth that the 
soul is immortal — a postulate beyond which Kant would not go ; 
it also justifies the hope of the resurrection of the body. For in 
the triumph of the spirit over matter, as we know from our own 
preliminary and rudimentary experience, matter is not destroyed 
but is made eternal as the image of a spiritual quality and an 
instrument of the activity of the spirit. 

We do not know from experience what matter is in itself j 
this is a subject for metaphysical investigation. The psychical 
and the physical phenomena are qualitatively distinct so far as 
knowledge is concerned : the first are known by direct intro- 



spection and the second by means of the outer senses. But 
experience — both the immediate individual and the universal, 
scientific, and historical experience — undoubtedly proves that in 
spite of this there is no gulf between the real essence of the 
spiritual and the material nature, that the two are most intimately 
connected and constantly interact. Since the process whereby 
the universe attains perfection is the process of manifesting 
God in man, it must also be the process of manifesting God in 

The chief concrete stages of this process, given in our 
experience, bear the traditional and significant name of kingdoms. 
It is significant because it really is applicable only to the last and 
highest stage, which is usually not taken into account at all. 
Counting .this highest stage there are five kingdoms altogether : 
the mineral (or, more generally, the inorganic) kingdom, the 
vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom, the human kingdom, and 
God's kingdom. Minerals, plants, animals, natural humanity and 
spiritual humanity — such are the typical forms of existence from 
the point of view of the ascending process of universal perfection. 
From other points of view the number of these forms and stages 
might be increased, or, on the contrary, be reduced to four, three, 
and two. Plants and animals may be grouped together into one 
organic world. Or the whole realm of physical existence, both 
organic and inorganic, may be united in the one conception of 
nature. In that case there would be a threefold division only, 
into the Divine, the human, and the natural kingdoms. Finally, 
one may stop at the simple opposition between the Kingdom of 
God and the kingdom of this world. 

Without in the least rejecting these and all other divisions, it 
must be admitted that the five kingdoms indicated above represent 
the most characteristic and clearly defined grades of existence from 
the point of view of the moral meaning realised in the process 
of manifesting God in matter. 

Stones and metals are distinguished from all else by their 
extreme self-sufficiency and conservatism ; had it rested with 
them, nature would never have vrakened from her dreamless 
slumber. But, on the other hand, without them her further 
growth would have been deprived of a firm basis or ground. 
Plants in unconscious, unbroken dreams draw towards warmth, 


light, and moisture. Animals by means of sensations and free 
movements seek the fulness of sensuous being : repletion, sexual 
satisfaction, and the joy of existence (their games and singing). 
Natural humanity, in addition to all these things, rationally strives 
to improve its life by means of sciences, arts, and social institu- 
tions, actually improves it in various respects, and finally rises to 
the idea of absolute perfection. Spiritual humanity or humanity 
born of God not only understands this absolute perfection with 
the intellect but accepts it in its heart and its conduct as the 
true beginning of that which must he fulfilled in all things. It 
seeks to realise it to the end and to embody it in the life of the 

Each preceding kingdom serves as the immediate basis of the 
one that foUovirs. Plants derive their nourishment from inorganic 
substances, animals exist at the expense of the vegetable kingdom, 
men live at the expense of animals, and the Kingdom of God is 
composed of men. If wre consider an organism from the point 
of view of its material constituents we shall find in it nothing 
but elements of inorganic substance. That substance, however, 
ceases to be a mere substance in so far as it enters into the plan of 
the organic life, which makes use of the chemical and physical 
properties of substance but is not reducible to them. In a similar 
way, human life on its material side consists of animal processes, 
which, however, have in it no significance on their own account 
as they do in the animal world. They serve as a means or an 
instrument for new purposes and new objects which follow 
from the new, higher plan of rational or human life. The sole 
purpose of the typical animal is satisfaction of hunger and of 
the sexual instinct. But when a human being desires nothing 
further he is rightly called bestial, not only as a term of abuse, 
but precisely in the sense of sinking to a lower level of existence. 
Just as a living organism consists of chemical substances which 
cease to be mere substances, so humanity consists of animals 
which cease to be merely animal. Similarly, the Kingdom of 
God consists of men who have ceased to be merely human and 
form part of a new and higher plan of existence in which their 
purely-human ends become the means and instruments for another 
final purpose. 



The stone exists ; the plant exists and is living ; the animal 
lives and is conscious of its life in its concrete states ; man under- 
stands the meaning of life according to ideas ; the sons of God 
actively realise this meaning or the perfect moral order in all 
things to the end. 

The stone exists, this is clear from its sensible effect upon us. 
A person who denies it can easily convince himself of his error, 
as has been observed long ago, by knocking his head against 
the stone.^ Stone is the most typical embodiment of the category 
of being as such, and, in contradistinction to Hegel's abstract idea 
of being, it shows no inclination whatever to pass into its 
opposite : ^ a stone is what it is and has always been the symbol 
of changeless being. It merely exists — it does not live and it does 
not die, for the parts into which it is broken up do not qualitatively 
differ from the whole.^ The plant not merely exists but lives, 
which is proved by the fact that it dies. Life does not presuppose 
death, but death obviously presupposes life. There is a clear and 
essential difference between a growing tree and logs of wood, 
between a fresh and a faded flower — a difference to which there 
is nothing corresponding in the mineral kingdom. 

' Kant rightly pointi out that this argument is insufficient for theoretical philosophy,; 
and when dealing with the theory of knowledge I propose to discuss the question as to 
the being of things. But in moral philosophy the above argument is sufficient, for in all 
conscience it is convincing. 

' It will be remembered that in Hegel's Dialectic pure being passes into pure 
nothing. In answer to a learned critic, I would like to observe that although I regard 
the stone as the most typical embodiment and symbol of unchanging being, I do not in 
the least identify the stone with the category of being and do not deny the mechanical 
and physical properties of the concrete stone. Every one, for instance, takes the pig 
to be the most typical embodiment and symbol of the moral category of unrestrained 
carnality, which is on that account called ' piggishness.' But in doing so no one denies 
that a real pig has in addition to its piggishness four legs, two eyes, etc. 

' I am speaking here of the stone as the most characteristic and concrete instance 
of inorganic bodies in general. Such a body taken in isolation has no real life of its own. 
But this in no way prejudges the metaphysical question as to the life of nature in 
general or of the more or less complex natural wholes such as the sea, rivers, mountains, 
forests. And indeed, separate inorganic bodies too, such as stones, though devoid of 
life on their own account, may serve as constant mediums for the localised living 
activity of spiritual beings. Of this nature were the sacred stones — the so-called bethels 
or bethils (houses of God) which were associated with the presence and activity of angels 
or Divine powers that seemed to inhabit these stones. 


It is as impossible to deny life to plants as to deny consciousness 
to aniinals. It can only be done with the help of an arbitrary 
and artificial terminology, which is not binding upon any one. 
According to the natural meaning of the word, consciousness in 
general is a definite and regular correspondence or interrelation 
between the inner psychical life of a given being and its 
external environment. Such correlation is undoubtedly present in 
animals. The presence of life in the vegetable kingdom is clearly 
seen in the distinction between a living and a dead plant > the 
presence of consciousness in animals is, at any rate in the case of 
the higher and typical animals, clearly seen in the distinction 
between a sleeping and a waking animal. For the distinction 
consists precisely in the fact that a waking animal consciously 
takes part in the life that surrounds it, while the psychical world 
of a sleeping animal is cut off from direct communication with 
that life.^ An animal not merely has sensations and images ; it 
connects them by means of correct associations. And although 
it is the interests and the impressions of the present moment that 
predominate in its life, it remembers its past states and foresees the 
future ones. If this were not the case, the education or training 
of animals would be impossible, yet such training is a fact. No 
one will deny memory to a horse or a dog. But to remember a 
thing or to be conscious of it is one and the same. To deny 
consciousness to animals is merely an aberration of the human 
consciousness in some philosophers. 

One fact of comparative anatomy ought alone to be sufficient 
to disprove this crude error. To deny consciousness to animals 
means to reduce the whole of their life to the blind promptings of 
instinct. But how are we to explain in that case the gradual 
development in the higher animals of the organ of conscious mental 
activity — the brain ? How could this organ have appeared and 
developed if the animals in question had no corresponding 
functions ? Unconscious, instinctive life does not need the 
bnain. This is shown by the fact that the development of instinct 

^ The usual ways in which an animal becomes conscious of his environment are 
closed in sleep. But this does not by any means exclude the possibility of a different 
environment and of other means of mental correlation, i.e. of another sphere of conscious- 
ness. In that case, however, the periodical transition of a given mental life from one 
sphere of consciousness into another would prove still more clearly the general conscious 
character of that life. 


is prior to the appearance of that organ, and that it reaches its 
highest development in creatures that have no brain. The 
excellence of ants' and bees' social, hunting, and constructive 
instincts depends of course not on the brain, which, strictly speak- 
ing, they have not got, but upon their well-developed sympathetic 
nervous system. 

Man differs from animals not by being conscious, since the 
same is true of them also, but by possessing reason or the 
faculty of forming general concepts and ideas. The presence of 
consciousness in animals is proved by their purposive movements, 
mimicry, and their language of various sounds. The fundamental 
evidence of the rationality of man is the word, which expresses not 
only the states of a particular consciousness, but the general mean- 
ing of all things. The ancient wisdom rightly defined man not 
as a conscious being — which is not enough — but as a being 
endowed with language or a rational being. 

The power inherent in the very nature of reason and of 
language to grasp the all-embracing and all-uniting truth has 
acted in many different ways in various and separate peoples, 
gradually building up the human kingdom upon the basis of the 
animal life. The ultimate essence of this human kingdom is the 
ideal demand for the perfect moral order, i.e. a demand for the 
Kingdom of God. By two paths — of prophetic inspiration among 
the Jews, and of philosophic thought among the Greeks — has the 
human spirit approached the idea of the Kingdom of God, and 
the ideal of the God-man.^ Parallel to this double inner process, 
but naturally more slow than it, was the external process of bringing 
about political unity and unity of culture among the chief historical 
peoples of East and West, completed by the Roman Empire. In 
Greece and Rome natural or pagan humanity reached its limit. 
In the beautiful sensuous form and speculative idea among the 
Greeks, and in the practical reason, will, or power among the 
Romans, it has affirmed its absolute divine significance. There 
arose the idea of the absolute man Or man-god. This idea cannot, 
from its very nature, remain abstract or purely speculative. It 
demands embodiment. But it is as impossible for man to make 

' Both these paths — the Biblical and the philosophical — coincided in the mind of the 
Alexandrian Jew Philo, who is, from this point of view, the last and the most significant 
thinker of antiquity. 


himself a god as it is impossible for animals by their own efforts 
to attain human dignity, rationality, and power of speech. Re- 
maining upon its own level of development, animal nature could 
only produce the ape, and human nature — the Roman Caesar. Just 
as the ape is the forerunner of man, so the deified Caesar is the 
forerunner of the God-man. 


At the period when the pagan world contemplated its spiritual 
failure in the person of the supposed man-god — the Caesar im- 
potently aping the deity, individual philosophers and earnest 
believers were awaiting the incarnation of the Divine Word or 
the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God and the King of 
Truth. The man-god, even if he were lord of all the world, is 
but an empty dream ; the God-man can reveal His true nature 
even in the guise of a wandering rabbi. 

The historical existence of Christ, as well as the reality of 
His character recorded in the Gospels, is not open to serious 
doubt. It was impossible to invent Him, and no one could have 
done it. And this perfectly historical image is the image of the 
perfect man — not of a man, however, who says, ' I have become 
god,' but of one who says, ' I am born of God and am sent by 
Him, I was one with God before the world was made.' We are 
compelled by reason to believe this testimony, for the historical 
coming of Christ as God made manifest in man is inseparably 
connected with the whole of the world-process. If the reality of 
this event is denied, there can be no meaning or purpose in the 

When the first vegetable forms appeared in the inorganic 
world, developing subsequently into the luxurious kingdom of 
trees and flowers, they could not have appeared of themselves, out 
of nothing. It would be equally absurd to suppose that they had 
sprung from the accidental combinations of inorganic elements. 
Life is a new positive content, something more than lifeless matter ; 
and to reduce the greater to the lesser is to assert that something 
can come out of nothing, which is obviously absurd. The 
phenomena of vegetable life are continuous with the phenomena 
of the inorganic world ; but that of which they are the phenomena 


is essentially distinct in the two kingdoms, and the heterogeneity 
becomes more and more apparent as the new kingdom develops 
further. In the same way, the world of plants and the world of 
animals spring, as it were, from one root ; the elementary forms 
of both are so similar that biology recognises a whole class of 
animal-plants (the Zoophites). But under this apparent or 
phenomenal homogeneity there is undoubtedly concealed a funda- 
mental and essential difference of type, which evinces itself later 
in the two divergent directions or planes of being — the vegetable 
and the animal. In this case, again, that which is new and greater 
in the animal, as compared with the vegetable type, cannot, 
without obvious absurdity, be reduced to the lesser, i.e. to the 
qualities they have in common. This would mean identifying 
a + b with a, or recognising something as equal to nothing. In 
exactly the same way there is close proximity and intimate 
material connection, in the phenomenal order, between the human 
and the animal world. But the essential pecuHarity of the latter — 
which is certainly more apparent in a Plato or a Goethe than in a 
Papuan or an Esquimo — is a new positive content, a certain plus 
of existence, which cannot be deduced from the old animal type. 
A cannibal may not in himself be much above the ape ; but then 
he is not a final type of humanity. An uninterrupted series of 
more perfect generations lead from the cannibal to Plato and 
Goethe, while an ape, so long as it is an ape, does not become 
essentially more perfect. We are connected with our half-savage 
ancestors by the bond of historical memory, or the unity of 
collective consciousness — which animals do not possess. Their 
memory is individual only, and the physiological bond between 
generations that finds expression in heredity does not enter their 
consciousness. Therefore, though animals participate to a certain 
extent in the process of making the animal form more perfect 
(in accordance with the evolutionary theory), the results and the 
purpose of this process remain external and foreign to them. But 
the process whereby humanity is made more perfect is conditioned 
by the faculties of reason and will which are found in the lowest 
savage, though in- a rudimentary degree only. Just as these 
higher faculties cannot be deduced from the animal nature and 
form a separate human kingdom, so the qualities of the spiritual 
man — of man made perfect or of the God -man — cannot be 


deduced from the states and qualities of the natural man. Conse- 
quently, the Kingdom of God cannot be taken to be the result of 
the unbroken development of the purely-human world. The God- 
man is not the same as the man-god, even though distinct individuals 
among natural humanity may have anticipated the higher life 
which was to come. As the ' water lily ' appears at first sight to 
be a plant, while it undoubtedly is an animal, so, at the beginning, 
the bearers of the Kingdom of God apparently do not seem in 
any way to diiFer from men of this world, though there lives and 
acts within them the principle of a new order of being. 

The fact that tlie higher forms or types of being appear, or 
are revealed, after the lower does not by any means prove that 
they are a product or a creation of the lower. The order of 
reality is not the same as the order of appearance. The higher, 
the richer, and the more positive types and states of being are 
metaphysically prior to the lower, althqugh they are revealed or 
manifested subsequently to them. This is not a denial of evolu- 
tion ; evolution cannot be denied, it is a fact. But to maintain that 
evolution creates the higher forms out of the lower, or, in the long- 
run, out of nothing, is to substitute a logical absurdity for the fact. 
Evolution of the lower types of being cannot of itself create the 
higher. It simply produces the material conditions or brings 
about the environment necessary for the manifestation or the 
revelation of the higher type. Thus, every appearance of a new 
type of being is in a certain sense a new creation. But it is not 
created out of nothing. The material basis for the appearance of 
the new is the old type. The special positive content of the 
higher type does not arise de novo, but exists from all eternity. It 
simply enters, at a certain moment in the process, into a different 
order of being — the phenomenal world. The conditions of the 
appearance are due to the natural evolution of the material world ; 
that which appears comes from God.^ 


The interrelation between the fundamental types of being — 
which are the chief stages in the world-process — is not exhausted 

' The primordial relation of God to nature lies outside the boundaries of the world- 
process and is a subject for pure metaphysics, which I will not touch upon here. 


by the negative fact that these types, each having its own peculiar 
nature, are not reducible to one another. There is a direct con- 
nection between them which gives positive unity to the process as a 
whole. This unity, into the essential nature of which we cannot 
here inquire, is revealed in three ways. In the first place, each new 
type is a new condition necessary for the realisation of the supreme 
and final end, namely, for the actual manifestation in the world of the 
perfect moral order, the Kingdom of God, or for ' the revelation of 
the freedom and glory of the sons of God.' In order to attain its 
highest end or manifest its absolute worth, a being must in the first 
place be, then it must be living, then be conscious, then be rational, 
and finally be perfect. The defective conceptions of not being, 
lifelessness, unconsciousness, and irrationality are logically incom- 
patible with the idea of perfection. The concrete embodiment 
of each of the positive states of existence forms the actual king- 
doms of the world, so that even the lower enter into the moral 
order as the necessary conditions of its realisation. This instru- 
mental relation, however, does not exhaust the unity of the world as 
given in experience. The lower types are inwardly drawn to the 
higher, strive to attain to them, having in them, as it were, their 
purpose and their end. This fact also indicates the purposive 
character of the process as a whole (the most obvious instance of 
the striving is the likeness, already indicated, of the ape to man). 
Finally, the positive connection of the graduated kingdoms shows 
itself in the fact that each type includes or embraces the lower 
types within itself — and the higher it is, the more fully it does so. 
The world-process may thus be said to be the process oi gathering 
the universe together, as well as of developing and perfecting it. 
Plants physiologically absorb their environment (the inorganic sub- 
stances and physical phenomena which nourish them and promote 
their growth). Animals, in addition to feeding on plants, psycho- 
logically absorb, i.e. take into their consciousness, a wider circle 
of events correlated with them through sensation. Man, in 
addition to this, grasps, by means of reason, remote spheres of 
being which are not immediately sensed ; at a high stage of 
development he can embrace all in one or understand the meaning 
of all things. Finally the God-man or the Living Reason 
(Logos) not only abstractly understands but actively realises the 
meaning of everything, or the perfect moral order, as he embraces 


and connects together all things by the living personal power of 
love. The highest end of man as such (pure man) and of the 
human world is to gather the universe together in thought. The 
end of the God-man and of the Kingdom of God is to gather the 
universe together in reality. 

The vegetable world does not abolish the inorganic world, but 
merely relegates it to a lower, subordinate place. The same thing 
happens at the further stages of the world-process. At the end of 
it, the Kingdom of God does not, when it appears, abolish the lower 
types of existence, but puts them all into their right place, no longer 
as separate spheres of existence but as the spiritually-physical organs 
of a collected universe, bound together by an absolute inner unity 
and interaction. This is the reason why the Kingdom of God is 
identical with the reality of the absolute moral order, or, what is 
the same thing, with universal resurrection and ajroKaTda-Taxrvs 
rlav irdvrmv. 

When the God -man who begins the Kingdom of God is 
described as ' an ideal,' this does not mean that he is thinkable only 
and not real. He can only be called ideal in the sense in which 
a man may be said to be an ideal for the animal, or a plant an 
ideal for the earth out of which it grows. The plant is more ideal 
in the sense of possessing greater worth, but it has a- greater and 
not a lesser reality or fulness of existence as compared with a clod 
of earth. The same must be said of the animal as compared with 
the plant, of the natural man as compared with the animal, and of 
the God-man as compared with the natural man. On the whole, 
the greater worth of the ideal content is in direct proportion to the 
increase in real power : the plant has concrete powers (such as the 
power to transmute inorganic substances for its own purposes) which 
the clod of earth has not ; man is far more powerful than the ape, 
and Christ has infinitely more power than the Roman Caesar. 

The natural man differs from the spiritual not by being utterly 
devoid of the spiritual element, but by not Jiaving the power to 
realise that element completely. To obtain this power the 
spiritual being of man must be fertilised by a new creative act or 
by the effect of what in theology is called grace, which gives the 


sons of men ' the power to become the children of God.' Even 
according to orthodox theologians grace does not abolish nature 
in general, and the moral nature of man in particular, hvX perfects it. 
The moral nature of man is the necessary condition and pre- 
supposition of the manifestation of God in man. Not every 
inorganic substance but only certain chemical combinations can be 
affected by the vital force and form part of vegetable and animal 
organisms. Similarly, not all living beings but only those endow^ed 
with a moral nature can receive the effects of grace and enter into 
the Kingdom of God. The beginnings of spiritual life are 
inherent in the very nature of man and are to be found in the 
feelings of shame, pity, and reverence, as well as in the rules 
of conduct that follow from these feelings and are safeguarded 
by conscience or the consciousness of duty. This natural 
good in man is an imperfect good, and it is logically inevitable 
that it should, as such, remain for ever imperfect. Otherwise 
we should have to admit that the infinite can be the result of the 
addition of finite magnitudes, that the unconditional can arise out 
of the conditioned, and, finally, that something can come out of 
nothing. Human nature does not contain and therefore cannot 
of itself give rise to the real infinity or fulness of perfection. But 
by virtue of reason or universal meaning inherent in it, it contains 
the possibility of this moral infinity and a striving for its realisation, 
i.e. for the apprehension of the Divine. A dumb creature striving 
towards reason is a mere animal, but a being actually possessed of 
reason ceases to be an animal and becomes man, forming a new 
kingdom not to be deduced by a simple continuous evolution from 
the lower types. Similarly, this new being, rational, though not 
wholly rational, imperfect and only striving towards perfection, is 
a mere man, while a being possessing perfection cannot be merely 
human. He is a revelation of a new and final Kingdom of God, 
in which not the relative but the absolute Good or worth is 
realised, not to be deduced from the relative ; for the distinction 
is one of quality and not of quantity or degree. 

The divine man differs from the ordinary man not by being 
a represented ideal but by being a realised ideal. The false idealism 
which takes the ideal to be non-existent, and thinks its realisation 
unnecessary, is not worth criticising. But there is another question 
involved here which must be reckoned with. While admitting 


that the divine or perfect man must have reality, and not merely 
significance for thought, one may deny the historical fact of His 
appearance in the past. Such denial, however, has no rational 
grounds, and, moreover, it robs the process of universal history of 
all meaning. If the historical person known to us from the books 
of the New Testament was not the God-man or, in Kant's 
terminology, the realised ' ideal,' He could only be the natural 
product of historical evolution. But in that case why did not this 
evolution go further in the same direction and produce other persons 
still more perfect ? Why is it that after Christ there is progress 
in all spheres of life except in the fundamental sphere of personal 
spiritual power ? Every one who does not deliberately shut his 
eyes must admit the gulf there is between the noblest type of 
natural, searching wisdom immortalised by Xenophanes in his 
notes and by Plato in his dialogues, and the radiant manifestation 
of triumphant spirituality which is preserved in the Gospels and 
had blinded Saul in order to regenerate him. And yet, less than 
four centuries elapsed between Socrates and Christ. If during 
this short period historical evolution could produce such an increase 
of spiritual force in human personality, how is it that during a 
far longer time, and in a period of rapid historical progress, evolution 
has proved utterly powerless not only to bring about a corresponding 
advance in personal spiritual perfection, but even to keep it on the 
same level ? Spinoza aijd Kant, who lived sixteen and seventeen 
centuries after Christ, and were very noble types of natural wisdom, 
may well be compared with Socrates, but it would not occur to any 
one to compare them with Christ. It is not because they had a 
different sphere of activity. Take men celebrated in the religious 
sphere — Mahomet, Savonarola, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius Loyola,^ 
Fox, Swedenborg. All these were men of powerful personality ; 
but try honestly to compare them with Christ ! And historical 
characters, such as St. Francis, who come nearest to the moral 
ideal, definitely acknowledge their direct dependence upon Christ 
as a higher being. 

' It will be remembered that Auguste Comte, in some letters he wrote shortly 
before his death, declared Ignatius Loyola to be higher than Christ. But this judgment, 
as well as other similar opinions and actions of the founder of the Positivist philosophy, 
prove to all unprejudiced critics that the thinker in question, who had in his youth 
suffered for two years with brain disease, was in the last years of his life once more on 
the verge of insanity. See my article on Comte in the Brockhaus-Efroa Encyclopaedia. 



If Christ represents only a relative stage of moral perfection, 
the absence of any further stages during almost two thousand 
years of the spiritual growth of humanity is utterly incompre- 
hensible. If He is the absolutely highest type produced by the 
process of natural evolution, He ought to have appeared at the end 
and not in the middle of history. But indeed He could not in any 
case be a simple product of historical evolution, for the difference 
between absolute and relative perfection is not one of quantity or 
degree, but is qualitative and essential, and it is logically impossible 
to deduce the first from the second. 

The meaning of history in its concrete development compels 
us to recognise in Jesus Christ not the last word of the human 
kingdom, but the first and all-embracing Word of the Kingdom 
of God — not the man-god, but the God-man, or the absolute 
individual. From this point of view it can be well understood 
why He first appeared in the middle of history and not at the end 
of it. The purpose of the world-process is the revelation of the 
Kingdom of God or of the perfect moral order realised by a new 
humanity which spiritually grows out of the God-man. It is clear, 
then, that this universal event must be preceded by the individual 
appearance of the God-man Himself. As the first half of history 
up to Christ was preparing the environment or the external 
conditions for His individual birth, so the second half prepares the 
external conditions for His universal revelation or for the coming 
of the Kingdom of God. Here once more the general and logically 
certain law of the universe finds application : the higher type of 
being is not created by the preceding process but is phenomenally 
conditioned by it. The Kingdom of God is not z, product of 
Christian history any more than Christ was a product of the Jewish 
and the Pagan history. History merely worked out in the past and 
is working out now the necessary natural and moral conditions 
for the revelation of the God-nian and the divine humanity. 


By His word and the work of His whole Hfe, beginning with 
the victory over all the temptations of the moral evil and ending 


with the resurrection, i.e. the victory over the physical evil or the 
law of death and corruption, the true God-man has revealed to men 
the Kingdom of God. But, according to the very meaning and 
law of this new Kingdom, revelation cannot in this case coincide 
with attainment. In making real the absolute significance of each 
person the perfect moral order presupposes the moral freedom of 
each. But true freedom is acquired by the finite spirit through 
experience only. Free choice is only possible for the person who 
knows or has experienced that which he is choosing as well as its 
opposite. And although Christ finally conquered evil in the true 
centre of the universe, i.e. in Himself, the victory over evil on the 
circumference of the world, i.e. in the collective whole of humanity, 
has to be accomplished through humanity's own experience. 
This necessitates a new process of development in the Christian 
world which has been baptized into Christ but has not yet put 
on Christ.! 

The true foundation of the perfect moral order is the uni- 
versality of the spirit of Christ capable of embracing and re- 
generating all things. The essential task of humanity, then, is 
to accept Christ and regard everything in His spirit, thus enabling 
His spirit to become incarnate in everything. For this incarnation 
cannot be a physical event only. The individual incarnation of 
the Word of God required the consent of a personal feminine will : 
"Be it unto Me according to Thy word." The universal 
incarnation of the Spirit of Christ or the manifestation of the 
Kingdom of God requires the consent of the collective will of 
humanity, that all things should be united to God. In order that 
this consent should be fully conscious, Christ must be understood 
not only as the absolute principle of the good, but as thejwlness of 
good. In other words, there must be established a Christian (and 
an antichristian) relation to all aspects and spheres of human 
life. In order that this consent should be perfectly free, that it 
should be a true moral act or a fulfilment of the inner truth and 
not the effect of an overwhelming superior force, it was necessary 
for Christ to withdraw into the transcendental sphere of the 

• The least attention on the part of the reader will convince him that I have not 
given any ground for serious critics to reproach me virith the absurd identification of the 
Kingdom of God with historical Christianity or the visible Church (which one ?). I 
reject such identification both implicitly and explicitly ; nor do I recognise every 
scoundrel who has been baptized as a spiritual' man or 'a son of God,' 


invisible reality and to withhold His active influence from human 
history. It w^ill become manifest when human society as a 
whole, and not merely separate individuals, is ready for a 
conscious and free choice between the absolute good and its 
opposite. The unconditional moral demand, " Be ye perfect even 
as your Father in heaven is perfect," is addressed to each man, 
not as a separate entity but as together with others (be ye^ not 
be thou). And if this demand is understood and accepted as 
an actual problem of life, it inevitably introduces us into the 
realm of conditions which determine the concrete historical 
existence of society or the collective man. 





We know that the good in its full sense, including the idea of 
happiness or satisfaction, is ultimately defined as the true moral 
order which expresses the absolutely right and the absolutely desirable 
relation of each to all and of all to each. It is called the Kingdom 
of God. From the moral point of view it is quite clear that the 
realisation of the Kingdom of God is the only final end of life and 
activity, being the supreme good, happiness, and bliss. It is 
equally clear, if one thinks of the subject carefully and concretely, 
that the true moral order or the Kingdom of God is both perfectly 
universal and perfectly individual. Each wants it for himself and 
for every one, and is only able to attain it together with every one. 
Therefore there can be no essential opposition between the 
individual and society ; the question which of the two is an end 
and which is merely a means cannot be asked. Such a question 
would presuppose the real existence of the individual as a self- 
sufficient and self-contained entity. In truth, however, each 
individual is only the meeting-point of an infinite number of 
relations with other individuals. To abstract him from these 
relations means to deprive his life of all its concrete filling-in and 
to transform a personality into an empty possibility of existence. To 
imagine that the personal centre of our being is really cut off from 
our environment and from the general Hfe which connects us with 
other minds is simply a morbid illusion of self-consciousness. 

When a line is chalked before the eyes of a cock, he takes 
that line to be a fatal obstacle which he cannot possibly over- 
step. He is evidently incapable of understanding tljat the fatal, 



overwhelming significance of the chalk line is due simply to 
the fact that he is exclusively occupied with this unusual and 
unexpected fact, and is therefore not free with regard to it. The 
delusion is quite natural for a cock, but is less natural for a 
rational thinking human being. Nevertheless human beings fail 
but too frequently to grasp that the given limitations of our 
personality are insuperable and impermeable solely because our 
attention is exclusively concentrated on them. The fatal separate- 
ness of our 'self from all else is due simply to the fact that we 
imagine it to be fatal. We too are victims of auto-suggestion, 
which, though it has certain objective grounds, is as fictitious and 
as easily got over as the chalked line. 

The self-deception in virtue of which a human individual 
regards himself as real in his separateness from all things, and 
presupposes this fictitious isolation to be the true ground and the 
only possible starting-point for all his relations — this self- 
deception of abstract subjectivism plays terrible havoc not only in 
the domain of metaphysics-^-which, indeed, it abolishes altogether 
— but also in the domain of the moral and political life. It is the 
source of many involved theories, irreconcilable contradictions, and 
insoluble questions. But all of them would disappear of them- 
selves if, without being afraid of authoritative names, we would 
grasp the simple fact that the theories and the insoluble problems 
in question could only have arisen from the point of view of the 
hypnotised cock. 


Human personality, and therefore every individual human 
being, is capable of realising infinite fulness -of being, or, in other 
words, it is a particular form with infinite content. The reason of 
man contains an infinite possibility of a truer and truer know- 
ledge of the meaning of all things. The will of man contains an 
equally infinite possibility of a more and more perfect realisation 
of this universal meaning in the particular life and environment. 
Human personality is infinite : this is an axiom of moral philo- 
sophy. But the moment that abstract subjectivism draws its chalk 
line before the eyes of the unwary thinker the most fruitful of 
axioms becomes a hopeless absurdity. Human personality as 


containing infinite possibilities is abstracted from all the concrete 
conditions and results of its realisation in and through society — 
and is indeed opposed to them. There ensues insoluble con- 
tradiction between the individual and society, and the 'fatal 
question ' arises as to which of the two must be sacrificed to the 
other. Persons hypnotised by the individualistic view affirm the 
independence of separate personality which determines all its 
relations from within, and regard social ties and collective order as 
merely an external limit and an arbitrary restriction which must 
at any cost be removed. On the other hand, thinkers who are 
under the spell of collectivism take the life of humanity to be simply 
an interplay of human masses, and regard the individual as an 
insignificant and transient element of society, who has no rights 
of his own, and may be left out of account for the sake of the so- 
called common good. But what are we to make of society 
consisting of moral zeros, of rightless and non-individual creatures ? 
Would it be human society ? Where would its dignity and 
the inner value of its existence spring from, and wherein would it 
lie ? And how could such a society hold together ? It is clear 
that this is nothing but a sad and empty dream, which neither 
could nor ought to be realised. The opposite ideal of self- 
sufficient personality is equally chimeric. Deprive a concrete 
human personality of all that is in any way due to its relations 
with social and collective wholes, and the only thing left will be 
an animal entity containing only a pure possibility or an empty 
form of man — that is, something that does not really exist at all. 
Those who had occasion to go down to hell or to rise up to 
heaven, as, for instance, Dante and Swedenborg, did not find 
even there any isolated individuals, but saw only social groups and 

Social life is not a condition superadded to the individual life, 
but is contained in the very definition of personality which is 
essentially a rationally-knowing and a morally-active force — both 
knowing and acting being only possible in the life of a com- 
munity. Rational knowledge on its formal side is conditioned by 
general notions which express a unity of meaning in an endless 
multiplicity of events ; real and objective universality (the general 
meaning) of notions manifests itself in language as a means of 
communication, without which rational activity cannot develop. 


and, for lack of realisation, gradually disappears altogether or 
becomes merely potential. Language — this concrete reason — 
could not have been the work of an isolated individual, and con- 
sequently such an individual could not be rational, could not be 
human. On its material side knov?ledge of truth is based upon 
experience — hereditary, collective experience wrhich is being 
gradually stored up. The experience of an absolutely isolated 
being, even if such a being could exist, would obviously be quite 
insufficient for the knowledge of truth. As to the moral 
determination of personality, it is clear that, although the idea of 
the good or of moral value is not wholly due to social relations as 
is often maintained, concrete development of human morality 
or the realisation of the idea of the good is only possible for the 
individual in a social environment and through interaction with it. 
In this all-important respect society is nothing but the objective 
realisation of what is contained in the individual. 

Instead of an insoluble contradiction between two mutually ex- 
clusive principles — between two abstract isms, — we really find two 
correlative terms each of which logically and historically requires 
and presupposes the other. In its essential signification society is 
not the external limit of the individual but his inner fulfilment. It 
is not an arithmetical sum or a mechanical aggregate of the indi- 
viduals that compose it, but the indivisible whole of the commimal 
life. This life has been partly realised in the past and is preserved 
in the abiding social tradition, is being partly realised in the 
present by means of social service, and finally, it anticipates in 
the form of a social ideal, present in the best minds, its perfect 
realisation in the future. 

Corresponding to these three fundamental and abiding 
moments of the individually-social life — the religious, the political, 
and the prophetic — there are three main concrete stages through 
which human life and consciousness pass in the course of the 
historical development, namely, (i) the stage of organisation based 
upon kinship, which belongs to the past though it is still preserved 
in a changed form in the family ; (2) the national state, prevalent 
at the present time ; and finally (3) the H««i)mfl/ communion of 
life, as the ideal of the future. 

At all these stages society is essentially the moral fulfilment or 
the realisation of the individual in a given environment. But the 


environment is not always the same. At the first stage it is 
limited for each to his own tribe ; at the second, to his own father- 
land ; and it is only at the third that the human personality, having 
attained a clear consciousness of its inner infinity, endeavours to 
realise it in a perfect society, abolishing all limitations both in the 
nature and in the extent of concrete interaction. 


Each single individual possesses as such the potentiality of 
perfection or of positive infinity, namely, the capacity to under- 
stand all things with his intellect and to embrace all things with 
his heart, or to enter into a living communion with everything. 
This double infinity — the power of conception and the power of 
striving and activity, called in the Bible, according to the inter- 
pretation of the Fathers of the Church, the image and likeness of 
God — necessarily belongs to every person. It is in this that the 
absolute significance, dignity, and worth of human personality 
consists, and this is the basis of its inalienable rights.^ It is clear 
that the realisation of this infinity, or the actuality of the 
perfection, demands that all should participate in it. It cannot 
be the private possession of each taken separately, but becomes his 
through his relation to all. In other words, by remaining isolated 
and limited an individual deprives himself of the real fulness of 
life, i.e. deprives himself of perfection and of infinity. A con- 
sistent affirmation of his own separateness or isolation would 
indeed be physically impossible for the individual person. All 
that the life of the community contains is bound in one way or 
another to afFect individual persons ; it becomes a part of them 
and in and through them alone attains its final actuality or 
completion. Or if we look at the same thing from another point 
of view — all the real content of the personal life is obtained from 
the social environment and, in one way or another, is conditioned 
by its state at the given time. In this sense it may be said that 

' This meaning of the image and likeness of God is essentially the same as that 
indicated in Part II. It is clear, indeed, that an infinite power of conception and 
understanding can only give us the image (' the schema ') of perfection, while an infinite 
striving, having for its purpose the actual realisation of perfection, is the beginning of 
our likeness to God, who is the real and not only the ideal perfection. 


society is the completed or magnified individual^ and the individual 
is compressed or concentrated society. 

The world purpose is not to create a solidarity between each 
and all, for it already exists in the nature of things, but to make 
each and all aware of this solidarity and spiritually alive to it ; to 
transform it from a merely metaphysical and physical solidarity 
into a morally-metaphysical and a morally-physical one. The 
life of man already is, both at its lower and its upper limit, an in- 
voluntary participation in the developing life of humanity and of 
the whole world. But the dignity of human life and the meaning 
of the universe as a whole demand that this involuntary partici- 
pation of each in everything should become voluntary and be 
more and more conscious and free, i.e. really personal — that each 
should more and more understand and fulfil the common work as 
if it were his own. It is clear that in this way alone can the 
infinite significance of personality be realised or, in other words, 
pass from possibility to actuality. 

But this transition itself — this spiritualisation or moralisation 
of the natural fact of solidarity — is also an inseparable part of the 
common work. The fulfilment of this supreme task depends not 
upon personal efforts alone, but is also necessarily conditioned by 
the general course of the world's history, or by the actual state of 
the social environment at a given moment in history. Thus the 
individual improvement in each man cannot be severed from the 
universal, nor the personal morality from the social. 


True morality is the rightful interaction between the indi- 
vidual and his environment — taking the term environment in the 
wide sense to embrace all spheres of reality — the higher as well as 
the lower — with which man stands in the practical relation. The 
true personal dignity of each undoubtedly finds expression and 
embodiment in his relations to his surroundings. The infinite 
possibilities inherent in the very nature of man gradually become 
realised in this individually-social reality. Historical experience 
finds man as already having his completion in a certain social 
milieu, and the subsequent course of history is nothing but a 


refinement and enlargement of this double-sided individually-social 
life. The three main stages or strata in this process that have 
been indicated above — the patriarchal, the national, and the 
universal — are of course connected by a number of intermediate 
links. A higher form does not replace or entirely cancel the 
lower, but, absorbing it into itself, makes it a subordinate part 
instead of an independent whole. Thus with the appearance of 
the state the tribal union becomes a subordinate part of it in the 
form of the family. But the relation of kinship, so far from being 
abolished, acquires a greater moral depth. It merely changes its 
sociological and judicial significance, ceasing to be a seat of 
independent authority or of jurisdiction of its own. 

As the lower forms of the collective life pass into the higher, 
the individual, in virtue of the infinite potentiality of understanding 
and of striving for the better latent in him, appears as the principle 
of progress and of movement (the dynamic element in history), 
while the social environment, being a reality already achieved, 
a completed objectification of the moral content in a certain 
sphere and at a certain stage, naturally represents the stable, 
conservative principle (the static element of history). When in- 
dividuals who are more gifted or more developed than others 
begin to be conscious that their social environment is no longer a 
realisation or a completion of their life, but is simply an external 
barrier and obstacle to their positive moral aspirations, they 
become the bearers of a higher social consciousness which seeks 
embodiment in new forms and in a new order of life that would 
correspond to it. 

All social environment is the objective expression or embodi- 
ment of morality (of right relations) at a certain stage of human 
development. But the moral agent, in virtue of his striving 
towards the absolute good, outgrows a given limited form of 
morality embodied in the social structure and takes up a negative 
attitude towards it — not towards it as such, but towards the given 
lower stage of its embodiment. It is obvious that such a conflict 
is not an opposition of principle between the individual and the 
social element, but is simply an opposition between the earlier and 
the later stages of the individually-social development. 


The moral worth and dignity of man finds its first expression 
in social life as determined by kinship.^ We find in it a rudimentary 
embodiment or organisation of morality as a whole — religious, 
altruistic, and ascetic. In other words, a group held together by 
the tie of kinship is the realisation of personal human dignity in 
the narrowest and most fundamental sphere of society. The first 
condition of the true dignity of man — reverence for that which 
is higher than himself, for the super-material powers that rule 
his life — here finds expression in the worship of the ancestors or 
of the founders of the clan. The second condition of personal 
dignity — the recognition of the dignity of others — is found in the 
solidarity of the members of the group, their mutual affection and 
consideration. The third, or, from another point of view, the 
first condition of human dignity — freedom from the predominance 
of carnal desires — is here to some extent attained by means of 
certain compulsory limitation or regulation of the sexual relations 
through the different forms of marriage and also by means of 
other restraining rules of the communal life, all of which de- 
mand the shame to which the ancient chronicler refers. 

Thus in this primitive circle of human life the moral dignity 
of the person is in all respects realised by the community and in 
the community. How can there be any contradiction and con- 
flict here between the individual and the collective principle and 
what expression can it assume ? The relation between the two 
is direct and positive. The social law is not extraneous to the 
individual, it is not imposed upon him from without contrary to 
his nature ; it merely gives a definite, objective and constant form 
to the inward motives of personal morality. Thus the person's 
inner religious feeling (rudiments of which are already found in 
certain animals) impels him to hold in reverence the secret causes 
and conditions of his existence — and the cult of ancestor worship 
merely gives an objective expression to this desire. The feeling 
of pity, equally inherent in man, inclines him to treat his relatives 
with fairness — the social law merely confirms this personal 

' I am speaking of kinship in the wide sense and have in mind a group of persons 
forming one self-contained community, united by the blood-tie and intermarriage, 
whether the connection between them takes the form of mother-right or of father-right. 


altruism by giving it a fixed and definite form and making it 
capable of realisation ; thus the defence of the weak members of 
the social group from injury is impossible for a single individual 
to undertake, but is organised by the clan as a w^hole or by a 
union of clans. Finally, man's inherent modesty finds realisation 
in definite social rules of abstinence. Personal morality cannot 
be separated from the social, for the first is the inner beginning of 
the second, and the second the objective realisation of the first. 
The rules of social life at the patriarchal stage — worship of common 
ancestors, mutual help between the individual members of the 
clan, limitation of sensuality by marriage — have a moral source 
and character, and it is clear that to carry out these social rules is 
a gain and not a loss to the individual. The more an individual 
member of a clan enters into the spirit of its social structure, 
which demands reverence for the unseen, solidarity with his 
neighbours, and control of carnal passions, obviously the more 
moral he becomes ; and the more moral he is, the higher is his 
inner worth or personal dignity ; thus subordination to society up- 
lifts the individual. On the other hand, the more free this sub- 
ordination, the more independently does the individual follow the 
inner promptings of his own moral nature which accord with the 
demands of social morality, the greater support does the society 
find in such a person j therefore the independence of the individual 
lends strength to the social order. In other words, the relation 
between the true significance of the individual and the true force 
of society is a direct and not an inverse one. 

What concrete form, then, could the principle of the opposition 
of the individual to society and of his superiority to it take at 
this early stage ? Perhaps the supposed champion of the rights 
of the individual would desecrate the tombs of his ancestors, 
jnsult his father, outrage his mother, kill his brothers, and marry 
his own sisters ? It is clear that such actions are below the very 
lowest social level, and it is equally clear that true realisation of 
absolute human dignity cannot be based upon a simple rejection 
of a given social structure. 


The moral content of social life as determined by kinship is 
permanent ; its external and limited form is inevitably outgrown 


by the historical process, with the active help of individuals. 
The first expansion of the primitive life is, of course, due to the 
natural increase of population. Within the limits of one and 
the same family the more intimate degrees of kinship are follow^ed 
by the more remote, although the moral duties extend to the 
latter also. Similarly to the progressive division of a living 
organic cell, the social cell — the group united by kinship — divides 
into many groups, which preserve, however, their connection 
and the memory of their common descent. Thus a new social 
unit is formed — the tribe — which embraces several contiguous 
clans. For instance, the North American Red Indian tribe 
Seneca, described by the well-known sociologist Morgan, 
consisted of eight independent clans, evidently formed by the 
subdivision of one original clan, and standing in definite relation 
to one another. Each clan was based on kinship, and marriages 
within the clan were strictly forbidden as incestuous. Each clan 
was autonomous, though in certain respects subordinate to the 
common authority of the whole tribe, namely, to the tribal 
council, which consisted of the representatives of all the eight 
clans. In addition to this political and military institution, the 
unity of the tribe found expression in a common language and 
common religious celebrations. The transition stage between 
the clan and the tribe were the groups which Morgan designates 
by the classical name oi fratrias. Thus the tribe of Seneca was 
divided into tvfo fratrias, each consisting of an equal number of 
clans. The first contained the clans of Wolf, Bear, Tortoise, 
Beaver ; the second, Deer, Wood-cock, Heron, Falcon. The 
clans in each group were regarded as brother clans, and in relation 
to the clans of the other group as cousins. It is clear that the 
original clan from which the Seneca tribe was descended was first 
divided into two new clans, each of which became subdivided 
into four, and this succession has been preserved in the common 

There is no reason why the consciousness of social solidarity, 
extended to a group of clans, should stop at the limits of the 
tribe. The widening of the moral outlook on the one hand, 
and the recognised advantages of common action on the other, 
induce many tribes to form first temporary and, later, permanent 
alliances with one another. Thus the tribe of Seneca, together 


with many others, entered into the union of tribes bearing the 
common name of Iroquois. The tribes forming such unions 
are generally, though not necessarily, supposed to have a common 
ancestor. It often happens that when several tribes whose 
ancestors had parted in times immemorial, and which had grown 
and developed independently of one another, come together again 
under new conditions, they form a union by means of treaties for 
the sake of mutual defence and common enterprise. The treaty 
in this case is certainly regarded as of far greater significance 
than the blood-tie, which need not be presupposed at all. 

The union of tribes, especially of those that have reached 
a certain degree of culture and occupy a definite territory, is the 
transition to a state, the embryo of a nation. The Iroquois, 
like most Red Indian tribes who remained in the wild forests 
and prairies of North America, did not advance further than 
such an embryo of a nation and state. But other representatives 
of the same race, moving southwards, fairly rapidly passed from 
the military union of tribes to a permanent political organisation. 
The Aztecs of Mexico, the Incas of Peru founded real national 
states of the same type as the great theocratical monarchies of 
the Old World, The essential inner connection between the 
original social cell — the group united by kinship — and the wide 
political organisation is clearly expressed in the word fatherland, 
which almost in all languages designates the national state. 
The term fatherland, implying as it does a relation of kinship 
(patria, Faterland, etc.), indicates not that the state is an expansion 
of the family — which is not true — but that the moral principle of 
this new great union must be essentially the same as the principle 
of the narrower union based upon kinship. In truth, states have 
arisen out of wars and treaties, but this does not alter the fact 
that the purpose or meaning for which they came into being 
was to establish in the wide circle of the national, and even the 
international, relations the same solidarity and peaceable life as had 
existed of old within the limits of the family. 

The process of the formation of states and the external 
changes in the human life connected with it do not concern us 
here. What is of interest to ethics is the moral position of the 
individual with regiard to his new social environment. So long 
as the only higher forms of social life, in contradistinction to 



the clan, were found in the tribe and the union of tribes, the 
position of the individual was not essentially altered. It only 
changed, so to speak, quantitatively : moral consciousness 
received greater satisfaction and was more completely realised 
as the sphere of practical interaction became wider ; and that was 
all. The divine ancestor of a given clan found brothers in the 
ancestors of other clans, each other's deities were mutually 
recognised, the religions of separate peoples were amalgamated 
and to a certain extent received a universal meaning (at the 
periods of tribal festivities), but the character of worship remained 
the same. The expression of human solidarity — the defence of 
one's kinsmen and the duty of avenging their wrongs — also 
remained intact when the tribe and the union of tribes came 
to be formed. Essential change took place only with the 
appearance of the fatherland and the state. The national 
religion may have developed out of ancestor worship, but the 
people have themselves forgotten its origin ; similarly, the 
dispassionate justice of the state is essentially different from 
blood-vengeance. Here we have not simply an expansion of 
the old order based upon kinship, but the appearance of a new 
one. And in connection with this new order of the national state 
there may have arisen, and there did arise, a conflict of principle 
between the constituent forces of society — a conflict which 
might, to a superficial observer, appear as the conflict between 
the individual and the society as such. 


Neither the tribe, nor the union of tribes, nor the national 
state — the fatherland — destroys the original social cell ; it only 
alters its signification. The change may be expressed in the 
following short but perfectly correct formula : the state order trans- 
forms the clan into the family. Indeed, until the state is formed, 
family life, strictly speaking, does not exist. The group of 
individuals held together by a more or less intimate blood-tie, 
which in primitive times forms the social unit, differs from the real 
family in one essential respect. The distinguishing characteristic 
of the family is that it is a form of private, in contradistinction to 
public, life : ' a public family ' is a contradiction in terms. But 


the difFerence between public and private could only have arisen 
with the formation and the development of the state which essentially 
stands for the public aspect of common life. Until then, so long 
as the legal and political functions of the social life were still 
undifferentiated — when judgment and execution, war and peace 
were still the private concerns of the primitive groups connected by 
the blood-tie — such groups, even the smallest of them, obviously 
could not possess the distinguishing characteristic of the family 
or home. They acquired this new character only when the 
functions in question were taken over by the state as a public 
or national organisation. 

Now this transformation of the clan, i.e. of the political 
and social union, into the family, i.e. into an exclusively social, 
private, or home union, could be looked upon in two ways. It 
might be regarded as involving the purification of the tie of 
kinship which thus acquires greater inward dignity, or as 
involving its external lessening and degradation.'^ Since the 
duties of the individual to his clan were for a long time the 
sole expression of individual morality, conservative and passive 
natures might regard the submission of the clan to a new and 
higher unity of the state or fatherland as immoral. The personal 
consciousness was for the first time confronted with the question 
as to which of the two social unions it was to side with — with 
the more narrow and intimate, or with the wider and more remote. 
But whichever way this question might be settled by this or that 
individual, it is in any case clear that this is not a question of con- 
flict between the individual and society, nor even between two 
kinds of social relation — the relation of kinship and of nationality. 
It is simply a question whether human life should, stop at the stage 
of kinship or be further developed by means of the organisation 
of the state. 

In the social group determined by kinship with its moral 
conditions and institutions, the human individual can realise his 
inner dignity better than in the state of brutal isolation. History 

' This double point of view may be brought out by an analogous example from quite 
a different sphere of relations. The loss by the Pope of his political power, or 
the abolition of the Church-state, may be regarded even by good and genuine Roman 
Catholics in two different and, indeed, opposite ways. It may be taken to be either a 
favourable condition for the increase of the inward moral authority of the Pope, or a 
lamentable detraction and decrease in the scope of his political activity. 


has proved that the further development or improvement of the 
individual demands the more complex conditions of life which are 
to be found in civilised states only. The immature fancy of the 
young poet may glorify the half-savage life of nomadic gypsies ; 
the unanswerable criticism of his view is contained in the simple 
fact that Pushkin, a member of a civilised community, could create 
his Gypsies^ while the gypsies, in spite of all their alleged ad- 
vantages, could not create a Pushkin.' 

All the things whereby our spiritual nature is nurtured, all 
that lends beauty and dignity to our life in the sphere of religion, 
science and art, has sprung from the' foundation of ordinary 
civilised life, conditioned by the order of the state. It has all been 
created not by the clan but by the fatherland. When the clan life 
still predominated, the men who took their stand with the 
fatherland, which till then was non-existent or only just dawning 
on their own inner vision, were bearers of a higher consciousness, 
of a better individually-social morality. They were benefactors 
of humanity and saints of history, and it is not for nothing that 
the grateful city-states of Greece and other countries did homage 
to them as their heroes — the eponyms. 

Social progress is not an impersonal work. The conflict of 
individual initiative with its immediate social environment led to 
the foundation of a wider and more important social whole — the 
fatherland. The bearers of the super-tribal consciousness, or, more 
exactly, of the half-conscious striving towards a wider moral and 
social life, felt cramped in the narrow sphere of the clan life, broke 
away from it, gathered a band oi free followers round themselves, 
and founded states and cities. The pseudo- scientific criticism 
has arbitrarily converted into a myth the fugitive Dido who founded 
Carthage, and the outlaw brothers, founders of Rome. In quite 
historical times, however, we find a sufficient number of instances 
to inspire us with legitimate confidence in those legends of 
antiquity. Personal exploit breaking down the given social limits 
for the sake of creating new and higher forms of political and 
social life, is a fact so fundamental that it is bound to be met with 
at all periods of human development.- 

• The same poet, however, ' with reverence ' dedicates one of his more mature works 
to the historian of the Russian Empire. 

" The absurdity of the point of view generally assumed by the negative historical 


The historical as well as the naturally-scientific experience 
shows that it is impossible for a given organised group to break up 
or undergo any substantial transformation (for instance, to enter 
into another and a greater whole) apart from the activityof the finite 
units which compose it. The ultimate unit of human society is 
the individual who has always been the active principle of historical 
progress, i.e. of the transition from the narrow and limited forms 
of life to social organisations that are wider and richer in content. 


A given narrow social group (say, a clan) has a claim upon the 
individual, for it is only in and through it that he can begin to 
realise his own inner dignity. But the rights of the community 
over the individual cannot be absolute, for a given group in its 
isolation is only one relative stage of the historical development, 
while human personality may pass through all the stages in its 
striving for infinite perfection, which is obviously not exhausted 
or finally satisfied by any limited social organisation. In other 
words, in virtue of his inner infinity the individual can be absolutely 
and entirely atone with the social environment not in its given limita- 
tions, but only in its infinite completeness, which becomes gradually 
manifest as the forms of social life, in their interaction with individual 
persons, become wider, higher, and more perfect. It is only in a com- 
munity that personal achievement is fruitful, but in a community 
which develops. Unconditional surrender to any limited and 
immovable form of social life, so far from being the duty of the 
individual, is positively wrong, for it could only be to the 
detriment of his human dignity. 

An enterprising member of the clan is, then, morally righc in 
rebelling against the conservatism of the clan, and in helping to create 

criticism escapes general ridicule simply owing to the ' darkness of time,' which conceals 
the objects upon which it is exercised. If its favourite methods and^considerations were 
applied, e.g., to Mahomet or Peter the Great, there would be as little left of these 
historical lieroes as of Dido or Romulus. Every one who has read Whateley's admirable 
pamphlet on Napoleon will agree that the solar significance of this mythological hero is 
proved in it, in accordance with the strict rules of the critical school, and is worked out 
with a consistency, clearness, and completeness not often to be found in the more or less 
famous works of the negative critics, although the latter wrote without the least irony 
but with the most serious intentions. 


the state which transforms the once independent social groups 
into elementary cells of a new and greater whole. But this implies 
that the new social organisation has no absolute rights over the 
old, tribal, or, henceforth, family relations. The order of the 
state is a relatively higher but by no means a perfect form of 
social life, and it therefore has .only a relative advantage over the 
organisation based upon kinship. And although the latter is merely 
a transitory stage in the social development, it contains a moral 
element of absolute value, which retains its force in the state and 
must be sacred to it. Indeed, two aspects are clearly apparent 
in primitive morality. In the first place, certain moral con- 
ceptions are connected with the idea of the clan as an independent 
or autonomous form of common life — which, in fact, it had been 
once, but ceased to be when the state was formed. This is 
the transitory and supersedable element of the clan morality. In 
the second place, certain natural duties arise from the intimate tie 
of kinship and common life, and these obviously retain all their 
significance in the' transition to the state, or in the transformation 
of the clan into the family. The hard shell of the clan organisa- 
tion has burst and fallen apart, but the moral kernel of the family has 
remained, and will remain to the end of history. Now when the 
transition from one organisation to another has just been eiFected, 
the representatives of the newly-formed state-power, conscious of 
its advantages over the clan structure, might easily ascribe to the 
new order an absolute significance which does not belong to it, 
and place the law of the state above the law of nature. In con- 
flicts which arise on this ground, moral right is no longer on the 
side of these representatives of the relatively higher social order, but 
on the side of the champions of what is absolute in the old, and of 
what must remain equally sacred under any social order. Con- 
servatism now ceases to be a blind or selfish inertness, and becomes 
a pure consciousness of supreme duty. Woman, the incarnation 
of the conservative principle, the bulwark of low routine, now 
becomes the embodiment of moral heroism. Sophocles's Antigone 
impersonates the element of absolute value contained in the old 
order of life — the element which retains its permanent significance 
as the clan becomes the femily within the new organisation of the 
state. She has no thought of the political autonomy of the clan, 
of the right of blood-vengeance, etc. j she simply stands up for 


her unconditional right to fulfil her unconditional duty of piety 
and sisterly love — to give honourable burial to her nearest kinsman 
who can receive it from no one but her. She has no enmity 
towards the moral foundations of the state ; she simply feels — 
and quite rightly — that apart from these foundations the demands 
of the positive law are not absolute but are limited by the natural 
law which is sanctified by religion and safeguards family duties 
against the state itself if need be, when it appropriates what does 
not belong to it. The conflict between Creon and Antigone 
is not a conflict between two moral forces — the social and the 
individual ; it is a conflict of the moral and the anti-moral force. 
It is impossible to agree with the usual view of Antigone as of 
the bearer and champion of personal feeling against a universal 
law, embodied in the representative of the state — Creon. The 
true meaning of the tragedy is entirely different. A religious 
attitude to the dead is a moral duty, the fulfilment of which lies 
at the basis of all social life ; personal feeling expresses merely the 
subjective aspect of the matter. In our own day, the burial of 
dead relatives and the homage paid to them is not due to personal 
feeling only ; and this was still more the case in ancient times. 
The feeling may not be there, but the duty remains. Antigone 
had heartfelt affection for both her brothers, but sacred duty 
bound her to the one who needed her religious help. Being the 
pattern of a moral individual, Antigone at the same time is the 
representative of true social order, which is only preserved by the 
fulfilment of duty. She does not in the least conceal her feelings, 
and yet as the motive of her action she gives not her feelings 
but a sacred obligation which has to be fulfilled to the end 
(^(jiiXtl fier avTov Ketcrofiai, <^iAov jikra, — otrto Travovpyrfraxra). This 
obligation is not of course an abstract duty, but an expression of 
the eternal order of reality : 

" I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living, in 
that world / shall abide for ever. But if thou wilt be guilty of 
dishonouring laws which the gods have stablished in honour "... 

To Creon's question, "And thou didst dare to transgress 
the law ? " she answers not by referring to her personal feeling 
but to the absolute supremacy of the eternal moral order which 
cannot be cancelled by civil laws : 

" For it was not Zeus that had published me that edict : 


net such are the laws set among men by the Justice who dwells 
with the gods below ; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of 
such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and un- 
failing statutes of heaven." 

As for Creon, he certainly does not represent the principle of 
the state, the moral basis of which is the same as that of the 
family, though with the advantage of a fuller realisation. He is 
the representative of the state that has become perverted or has 
put itself into a false position — of the state that has forgotten its 
place. But since such perversion does not form part of the essence 
or the purpose of the state, it can only arise from the evil passions 
of its representatives — in this case, of Creon. It would then be 
right to say, in direct opposition to the popular view, that 
Antigone stands for the universal and Creon for the individual 
element. Both statements, however, would be incorrect and 
inexact. It is clear that the opposition between the individual 
and society, the particular and the general, does not as such ever 
correspond to reality. The true opposition and conflict is not 
sociological but purely moral ; it is the conflict between good and 
evil, each of which finds expression both in the individual and 
in the social life. Cain killed Abel not because he represented 
the principle of individuality as against the family union — for in 
that case all developed ' personalities ' would have to kill their 
brothers ; he killed him because he stood for the principle of 
evil, which may manifest itself both individually and collectively 
privately or publicly. Creon in his turn forbade the citizens to 
fulfil certain religiously-moral duties, not because he was the 
head of the state, but because he was wicked and followed the 
same principle which was active in Cain previously to any state. 
Every law is of course a state enactment, but Creon's position is 
determined not by the fact that he enacted a law, but that he 
enacted an impious law. This is not the fault of the state-power 
but of Creon's own moral worthlessness ; for it could hardly be 
maintained that the function of the state consists precisely in 
enacting impious and inhuman laws. 

Creon then does not stand for the principle of the state but for 
the principle of evil which is rooted in the personal will, though 
it also finds expression and embodiment in the life of the com- 
munity — in the present case in the form of a bad law of the state. 


On the other hand, Antigone, who lays down her life for the fulfil- 
ment of a religious and moral duty that lies at the basis of social 
life, is simply the representative of the principle of good, which is 
also rooted in the personal will, but is realised in the true communal 

All human conflict is in the last resort reducible not to the 
relative sociological oppositions but to the absolute opposition of 
the good and the self-asserting evil. The inmost essence of the 
question is always one and the same ; but it does not follow that 
the various historical situations in which it is revealed again and 
again are therefore devoid of interest and importance of their own 
even from the ethical point of view. The inner essence of good 
and evil can only be clearly known through their typical mani- 
festations. Thus, the evil which expresses itself as the perversion 
of the idea of the state, or as putting the law of the state above 
the law of morality, is quite a specific form of evil. It is a higher 
grade of evil than, for instance, a simple murder or even fratricide ; 
but precisely because it is more complex and subtle, it is more 
excusable from the subjective point of view and is less blame- 
worthy than the cruder crimes. Therefore Creon, for instance, 
though socially he is more pernicious, is personally less guilty 
than Cain. 

There is another important shade of meaning in this profound 
tragedy. Speaking generally, the state is a higher stage of 
historical development than the clan. This higher stage had just 
been attained in Greece. The memory of how it came to be 
established, of the struggle and the triumph, is still fresh in the 
minds of its representatives. This recent victory of the new over 
the old, of the higher over the lower, is not merely accidental. In 
view of the obvious advantages of the state union over the feuds 
of the clans, its triumph is recognised as something necessary, 
rightful, and progressive. Hence Creon's self-confidence at the 
beginning of the play. The bad law proclaimed by him, putting 
as it does the loyalty to the new state above the original religious 
duties, is not merely an abuse of the power of the state, but an 
abuse of victory — not of the local victory of the Thebans over the 
Argives, but of the general victory of the state order— of the 
city state — over the clan. Creon cannot therefore be looked upon 
simply as a tyrant, or a representative of personal arbitrariness and 


material power — and this is not the way in which the ancients 
regarded him.^ The law he enacted was supposed to be the 
expression of the common will of the citizens. The short preface 
by Aristophanes the grammarian, usually placed at the beginning 
of the tragedy, begins thus : " Antigone who buried Polinices 
against the order of the city (or the state) — irapa rr^v irpoa-Ta^iv rijs 
jToAetos." In the play itself, Ismene justifies her refusal to help 
Antigone by saying that she cannot do violence to the will of her 
fellow-citizens. Creon, too, bases his argument not upon the 
principle of autocracy but u^on the unconditional significance of 
patriotism : 

" If any makes a friend of more account than his fatherland, 
that man has no place in my regard." 

The ethico-psychological basis of the bad law lies of course in 
Creon's bad will. This will, however, is not merely senseless and 
arbitrary but is connected with a general although a false idea 
according to which .the power of the state and the laws of the 
state are higher than the moral law. Creon formulates this false 
idea with perfect clearness : 

"Whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be 
obeyed, in little things and great, in just things and unjust." 

This idea, outrageously false as it is, has been and still is the 
inspiration of men who have not even Creon's excuse, namely, 
intoxication with the recent victory of the state order over the 
tribal anarchy. In those half-historical times no clear protest — 
such as Sophocles puts into the mouth of his Antigone — may 
have been raised by the better consciousness against this idea, 
but, at the epoch of Sophocles himself, the best minds were 
well aware that historical progress in bringing about new 
forms of society cannot possibly supersede the essential foundations 
of all social life. They understood that although such progress is 
both important and necessary, it is relative and subordinate to a 
higher purpose, and that it loses all justification when it is turned 
against the unconditional moral good, the realisation of which is the 
sole object of the historical development. And however highly we 

^ It will be remembered that the Greek word ripavyos did not originally have a bad 
meaning, but designated every monarch. In the same trilogy of Sophocles, the first 
play is called OlSlirovs ripapyos, which is rightly translated Oedipus rex ; and the word 
ought to be translated in the same way in the Antigone in reference to Creon. 


might value those who further the triumphant march of progress, 
the highest dignity of man, worthy of whole-hearted sympathy and 
approval, consists not in winning temporal victories, but in observ- 
ing eternal limits equally sacred both for the past and for the 




With the establishment of the national state the moral outlook 
of the individual is no doubt considerably widened and a greater 
field is opened for the exercise of his good feelings and of his active 
will in moral conduct. The conception of the deity becomes 
higher and more general, a certain religious development takes 
place. Altruism, or moral solidarity with other human beings, 
increases quantitatively or in extension and becomes qualitatively 
higher, losing its dominant character of natural instinct and being 
directed upon invisible and ideal objects — the state, the fatherland. 
These ideal objects are sensuously realised in the unity of language, 
customs, in the actual representatives of authority, etc., but, as is 
clear to every one, they are not exhausted by these concrete facts. 
The nation does not disappear with the change of its customs, the 
state does not cease to exist when its particular rulers pass away. 
The spiritual nature and the ideal significance of objects such as 
the nation and the state are preserved in any case, and the in- 
dividual's moral relation to them, expressing itself as true patriotism 
or civic virtue, is in this sense, other conditions being equal, a higher 
stage of morality than the simple feeling of kinship or of the blood- 
tie. On the other hand, however, it is often pointed out that as 
the range of moral relations or the social environment becomes 
wider, the inner personal basis of morality loses its living force 
and reality. It is urged that the intensity of moral motives is in 
inverse ratio to their objective extension ; that it is impossible to 
love one's country as sincerely and immediately as one's friends or 



relatives, and that the living interest in one's private welfare can 
never be compared w^ith the abstract interest in the w^elfare of the 
state, not to speak of the general welfare of humanity. The interest 
in the latter is indeed often denied as fictitious. 

Leaving aside for the moment the question of humanity, it 
must be admitted that the argument concerning the inverse 
relation between the intensity and the extension of moral feelings 
has a foundation in fact. But to be correctly understood it 
requires the following three reservations : 

( 1 ) Independently of the relation of individual persons, taken 
separately, to the more or less wide social whole, there exists 
collective morality, which embraces these persons in their totality 
— as a crowd or as a people. There is such a thing as the 
criminal crowd, upon which the criminologists have now turned 
their attention ; still more prominent is the senseless crowd, the 
human herd ; but there is also the splendid, the heroic crowd. 
The crowd excited by brutal or bestial instincts lowers the 
spiritual level of individuals that are drawn into it. But the 
human mass animated by collectively-moral motives lifts up to 
its level individuals in whom these motives are, as such, devoid of 
genuine force. At the kinship-group stage, the striving of the best 
men for a wider colle,ctive morality conditioned the appearance of 
the state or the nation, but once this new social whole, real and 
powerful in spite of its ideal nature, has been created, it begins 
to exert direct influence not only upon the best, but also upon the 
average and even the bad men that firm part of it. 

(2) Apart from collective morality, the quantitative fact that 
most men taken separately are bad patriots and poor citizens, 
is qualitatively counterbalanced by the few high instances of true 
patriotism and civic virtue which could not have arisen in the 
primitive conditions of life, and only became possible when the 
state, the nation, the fatherland had come into being. 

(3) Finally, whether the moral gain obtained by the widening 
of the social environment in the national state be great or small, 
it is in any case a gain. The good contained in the tribal 
morality is not annulled by this extension but is merely modified 
and made more pure as it assumes the form of family ties and 
virtues, which are supplemented and not replaced by patriot- 
ism. Thus, even from the individual point of view, our love 


for millions of our fellow-citizens, even though it cannot be as 
great as our love for some dozens of our friends, is a direct gain, 
for the wider love that is less intense does not destroy the more 
intense one. Consequently, from whatever point of view we look 
at it, the extension of the sphere of life from the limits of the 
clan to the state unquestionably means moral progress. This 
progress is apparent both in man's relation to the gods and to his 
neighbours, and also, as will be presently shown, in man's relation 
to his lower material nature. 


The moral principle which demands from man subordination 
to the higher and solidarity with his neighbours, requires him to 
dominate physical nature as the basis upon which reason works. 
This domination has for its immediate object the body of the 
individual himself — hence the ascetic morality in the narrow sense 
of the term. But the material life of the single individual is only 
a portion of the general material life that surrounds him, and to 
separate this portion from the whole is neither logically legitimate 
nor practically possible. So long as the outer nature completely 
overwhelms man, who, helpless and lost in virginal forests among 
wild beasts, is compelled to think of nothing but the preservation 
and maintenance of his existence, the thought of the mastery of 
the spirit over the flesh can hardly even arise, let alone the attempt 
to carry it out. Man who starves from necessity is not given to 
fasting for ascetic purposes. Suffering all kinds of privations from 
his birth onwards, living under the constant menace of violent 
death, man in the savage state is an unconscious and involuntary 
ascetic, and his marvellous endurance has as little moral worth as 
the sufferings of small fish pursued by pikes or sharks. 

The manifestation of the inner moral power of the spirit over 
the flesh presupposes that man is to a certain extent secure from 
the destructive powers of external nature. Now such security 
cannot be attained by a single individual — it requires social union. 
Although ascetic morality in some of its aspects seeks to sever the 
social ties, it is clear that such a striving could only have arisen on 
the basis of an already existing society. Both in India of the 
Brahmins and in Christian Egypt ascetic hermits were the 


product of a civilised social environment. They had spiritually 
outgrown it, but without it they themselves would have been 
historically and physically impossible. Solitary hermits who had 
voluntarily forsaken society for the desert by their very presence 
subdued wild beasts, which had no reason whatever for being 
subdued by the enforced solitude of vagrant savages, inferior to 
them in physical strength, but inwardly very much on their level. 
For the victory both over evil beasts without and over evil 
passions within a certain amount of civilisation was necessary, 
which could only be attained through the development of social life. 
Consequently ascetic morality is not the work of the individual 
taken in the abstract ; it can only be manifested by man as a 
social being. The inner foundations of the good in man do not 
depend upon the forms of social life, but the actual realisation of 
them does presuppose such forms. 

At the early beginnings of social life — at the kinship-group 
stage —^ascetic morality is purely negative in character. In 
addition to the regulation of the sexual life by marriage, we find 
prohibitions of certain kinds of food {e.g. of the ' totemic ' animals, 
connected with a given social group as its protecting spirits or 
as the incarnation of its ancestors), and also the restriction of 
meat foods to sacrificial feasts (thus, among the Semitic peoples 
especially, the flesh of domestic animals was originally for religious 
uses only.'-) 

But in the conditions of the tribal life asceticism could not 
from the very nature of the case go beyond such elementary 
restrictions. So long as personal dignity finds its realisation in a 
social organisation determined by kinship, or, at any rate, is 
conditioned by it, there can be no question of the ideal of com- 
plete continence or of the moral duty to struggle with such 
passions upon which the very existence of the tribe depends. 
The virtuous tribesman must be distinguished by vindictiveness 
and acquisitiveness, and has no right to dream of perfect purity. 
The ideal representative of tribal morality is the Biblical Jacob, 
who had two wives and several concubines, who begat twelve sons, 
and increased the family property without troubling about the 
means whereby he did it. 

The formation of the state had an enormous, though indirect, 

' See Robertson Smith's Tie Religion of tie Semites. 


influence upon ascetic morality in the wide sense of the term, i.e. 
upon that aspect of morality which is concerned with the material 
nature of man and of the world, and aims at the complete mastery 
of the rational spirit over the blind material forces. Power over 
nature is utterly impossible for a lonely savage or for the bestial man, 
and only a rudimentary degree of it is acquired at the barbarous 
stage of the tribal life. Under the conditions of civilised existence 
in strong and extensive political unions it becomes considerable 
and lasting, and is continually on the increase. The means of 
spiritual development for the individual, the school of practical 
asceticism for the masses of the people, and the beginning of sub- 
jugating the earth for humanity, is to be found in the military 
and theocratic empires which united men into large groups for 
carrying on the work of civilisation in four different quarters of 
the globe — between the Blue and the Yellow rivers, between the 
Ind and the Ganges, between the Tigris and Euphrates, and, 
finally, in the valley of the Nile. These military and theocratic 
monarchies — which Araktcheev's ' military settlements ' ^ re- 
called to us in miniature — were, of course, very far from the ideal 
of human society. But their great historical importance as a 
necessary moral school for primitive humanity is recognised even 
by the champions of absolute anarchism.^ 

Speaking generally, in order to rise above the compulsory form 
of social morality^ savage humanity had to pass through it — in 
order to outgrow despotism it had to experience it. More particu- 
larly, three considerations are undoubtedly involved here, (i) 
The harder the original struggle with primitive nature was, the 
more necessary it was for men to be united into wide but closely- 

' The so-called 'military settlements' were villages in which every peasant was 
compelled to be a soldier and to live under military discipline. Minute regulations 
with regard to the home life, work, dress, etc., were enforced with ruthless severity 
and made the life of the settlers intolerable. The idea of establishing military 
settlements belonged to Alexander I. and was carried out by Araktcheev, his favourite, 
who founded the first settlement in 1810. IVIilitary settlements were finally abolished 
by Alexander II. in 1857. — Translator's Note. 

" I would like especially to mention the interesting work by Leon Metchnikov, 
La Civilisation et les grands Jlcu-ves. See my article about it, " Iz istorii philosophii " 
(Concerning the philosophy of history), in the Vofrosi Philosophii (1891), and also Professor 
Vinogradov's article in the same magazine. One worthy critic imagined that in speaking 
of the military theocracy as the historical school of asceticism I was referring to the 
personal intentions of the Egyptian Pharaohs and Chaldean kings ! ! 


connected communities. And the wide extension of a social group 
could only be combined with an intimate and strong tie between 
its members by means of the strictest discipline, supported by the 
most powerful of all sanctions, namely, the religious sanction. 
Therefore political unions which had for the first time subdued 
wild nature and laid the corner-stone of human culture were bound 
to have the character of a religious and military monarchy, or of 
compulsory theocracy. This work of civilisation done under the 
pressure of the moral and the material needs — this 'Egyptian 
labour ' — was by its very nature a school of human solidarity for 
the masses and, from the point of view of its objective purpose 
and result, it was the first achievement of collective asceticism 
in humanity, the first historical triumph of reason over the blind 
forces of matter. 

(2) The compulsory character of this collective achievement 
prevents us from ascribing ideal worth to it, but does not alto- 
gether deprive it of moral significance. For compulsion was not 
merely material. It rested in the last resort upon the faith of 
the masses themselves in the divine character of the power which 
compelled them to work. However imperfect in its form and 
content that faith might be, to subordinate one's life to it, to 
endure at its behest all kinds of privation and hardship, is in any 
case a moral course of action. Both its general historical result 
and its inner psychological effect upon each individual composing 
the mass of the people had the character of true, though imperfect, 
asceticism — that is, of victory of the spiritual principle over the 
carnal. If the innumerable Chinese genuinely believe that their 
Emperor is the son of the sky ; if the Hindus were seriously 
convinced that the priests sprang from the head of Brahma and 
the kings and princes from his arms ; if the Assyrian king really 
was in the eyes of his people the incarnation of the national deity 
Assur, and the Pharaoh truly was for the Egyptians the manifesta- 
tion of the solar deity — then absolute submission to such rulers 
was for these peoples a religiously-moral duty, and compulsory 
work at their command an ascetic practice. This, however, 
did not apply to slaves in the strict sense — prisoners of war to 
whom their masters' gods were strange gods. And even apart 
from this national limitation the whole structure of these primitive 
religiously-political unions was essentially imperfect because the 



gods who received the voluntary and involuntary human sacrifices 
(both in the literal and in the indirect sense) did not possess 
absolute inner worth. They stood merely for the infinity of force, 
not for the infinity of goodness. Man is morally superior to such 
gods by his power of renunciation ; and therefore in sacrificing 
himself for these gods and their earthly representatives he does not 
find the higher for the sake of which it is worth while to sacrifice 
the lower. If the meaning of the sacrifice is to be found in the 
progress of civilisation, this meaning is purely relative, for progress 
itself is obviously only a means, a way, a direction, and not the 
absolute and final goal. But human personality contains an element 
of intrinsic value, which can never be merely a means — the 
possibility, namely, inherent in it, of infinite perfection through 
the contemplation of and union with the absolute fulness of being. 
A society in which this significance of personality is not recognised 
and in which the individual is regarded as having only a relative 
value, as a means for political and cultural ends — even the most 
lofty ones, — cannot be the ideal human society but is merely a 
transient stage of the historical development. This is particu- 
larly true of the military and theocratic monarchies with which 
universal history begins. 

(3) The primitive forms of the religiously-political union 
were so imperfect that they made further progress inevitable, and 
at the same time they naturally produced the external conditions 
necessary for that progress. Within the limits of the tribal life 
each member of a given social group was both physically and morally 
compelled to prey, plunder, and kill, to fight wild beasts, breed cattle, 
and produce numerous offspring. Obviously there was no room 
there for the higher spiritual development of the human person- 
ality. It only became possible when, with the compulsory division 
of labour in the great religiously-political organisations of the past, 
there arose, in addition to the masses doomed to hard physical 
work, the leisurely, propertied class of free men. By the side of 
warriors there appeared professional priests, scribes, diviners, etc., 
among whom the higher consciousness was first awakened. This 
great historical moment is recorded in the Bible in the significant 
and majestic story of the best representative of the patriarchal 
order, Abraham, with the crowd of his armed dependants, bowing 
down before the priest of the Most High, Melchizedek, who was 


without descent and came before him with the gifts of the new 
higher culture — bread and wine and the spiritual blessing of Truth 
and Peace,^ 

While by the sword of the great conquerors the hard collective 
work of the masses was gradually made to extend over a wider 
and wider area, securing the external material success of human 
culture, the inner work of thought among the leisured and peace- 
ful representatives of the nationally-theocratic states was leading 
human consciousness to a more perfect ideal of individual and 
social universalism. 


In the course of the world-history the first awakening of 
human self-consciousness took place in the land where its sleep 
had most abounded with fantastic and wild dreams — in India. To 
the over\yhelming variety of Indian mythology corresponded a 
confusing variety of religious, political, and customary forms and 
conditions of life. Nowhere else had the theocratic order been 
so complex and burdensome, so full of national and class exclusive- 
ness. Not from Egypt or China, not from the Chaldeans, 
Phoenicians, or the Greco-Roman world, but from India have we 
borrowed conceptions expressive of the extreme degree of separa- 
tion between the classes of men ^ and of the denial of human 
dignity. The ' pariahs ' were deprived of human dignity as 
standing outside the law ; men belonging to castes within the 
law and even to the highest of them were deprived of all freedom 
owing to a most complex system of religious and customary rites 
and regulations. But the more narrow and artificial the fetters 
fashioned by the spirit for itself and out of itself, the more they 
testify to its inner strength and to the fact that nothing external 
can finally bind and conquer it. The spirit awakes from the 
nightmare of sacrificial rites, compulsory actions, and ascetic 
tortures, and says to itself : All this is my own invention which in 
my sleep I took to be reality ; if only I can keep awake, the fear 
and the pain will vanish. But what will then remain ? A subtle 

' I am referring here, of course, simply to the historical meaning of the fact, and not 
to its mystical significance. 

' Although the word caste is Portuguese and not Indian, it had arisen (in the sense 
in question) precisely for the designation of the social relations of India. 


and significant, though not at first sight a clear, answer is given 
to this question by the religion of awakening. It perpetuates the 
moment when human personality turns from external objects into 
itself, and comes to know its purely negative or formal infinity 
devoid of all definite content. The individual is aware of his 
infinitude, freedom, and universality simply because he transcends 
all given determination, relation, and character, because he is 
conscious of something within himself which is more and higher 
than this caste, this nationality, this cult, this manner of life — of 
something that is higher than all this. Whatever objective 
determination a self-conscious person might put before himself, 
he does not stop there ; he knows that he had himself posited it 
and that his own creation is not worthy of him and therefore he 
forsakes it: '■all is empty.' All that belongs to the external world 
is rejected, nothing is found to be worthy of existence, but man's 
spiritual power of rejecting remains ; and it is very significant 
that Buddhism recognises this power not as belonging to the 
solitary individual, but as having an individually-social form of 
the so-called Triratna, i.e. ' three jewels ' or ' three treasures,' in 
which every Buddhist must believe : " I take my refuge in the 
Buddha ; I take my refuge in the doctrine or the law (Dharma) ; 
I take my refuge in the order of the disciples (Sangha)." Thus 
even in the consciousness of its negative infinity human personality 
cannot remain separate and isolated, but by means of a universal 
doctrine is inevitably led to a social organisation. 

All is deception except three things that are worthy of belief : 
(i) the spiritually-awakened man ; (2) the word of awakening ; 
(3) the brotherhood of those who are awake. This is the true 
essence of Buddhism which still nurtures millions of souls in 
distant Asia.^ This is the first lasting stage of human universalism 

1 It should be noted, by the way, that after the fashion set by Schopenhauer, who was 
prejudiced in favour of Buddhism, the number of Buddhists is usually exaggerated beyond 
all measure ; one hears of 400, 600, 700 million followers of this religion. These 
figures would be probable were China and Japan wholly populated by Buddhists. In 
truth, however, the teaching of Buddha in its various modifications is the religion of the 
masses only in Ceylon, Indo-China, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and among the Bouriats 
and Kalmucks j this amounts at most to 75 or 80 millions. In China and Japan 
Buddhism is simply one of the permitted religions which is more or less closely followed 
by the educated people, who do not, however, give up their national cult ; in a similar 
manner in Russia, for instance, under Alexander I. many Orthodox people used to 
frequent the meetings of the Freemasons. 


that rose above the national and political exclusiveness of the 
religious and social life. 

Born in the country of caste, Buddhism did not in the least 
reject the division of society into castes, or seek to destroy it ; its 
followers simply ceased to believe in the principle of that organisa- 
tion, in the absolute hereditary inequality of the classes. Appear- 
ing in the midst of a nation with a distinct character of its own, it 
did not reject nationality, but simply transferred human conscious- 
ness into the domain of other, universal and super-national ideas. 
In consequence of this, this Indian religion, the outcome of 
Hindu philosophy, was able, when finally rejected in India, to 
take root among many various peoples of different race and 
different historic education. 

The negative infinity of human personality had been apparent 
to individual philosophers before the time of Buddhism.^ But 
it was in Buddhism that this view found its first historical 
expression in the collective life of humanity. Owing to his 
morally-practical universalism which proceeded from the heart 
even more than from the mind, Buddha Sakya-muni created a 
form of common life hitherto unknown in humanity — the 
brotherhood of beggar-monks from every caste and nation, — the 
' listeners ' (Shravaki) of the true doctrine, the followers of the true 
way. Here for the first time the worth of the individual and his 
relation to society was finally determined not by the fact of being 
born into a certain class or a definite national and political 
organisation, but by the inner act of choosing a certain moral 
ideal. The theoretical conceptions of the first Buddha and the 

' Many fantastic ideas used to prevail with regard to the antiquity of the Hindu 
■ philosophy, but they are beginning to disappear in the light of the more scientific 
inquiry. Most of their philosophic wealth the Hindus acquired in later times, partly 
under the direct influence of Greelcs after Alexander the Great, and partly later still 
with the help of the Arabs who brought Aristotle to the East no less than to the West. 
But, on the other hand, there is no doubt that even the Greelcs — not to speak of Arabs 
— on their iirst acquaintance with India found there a peculiar local philosophy of the 
'naked wise men' {Gymnosophisu) as a typical and traditional institution of ancient 
standing. From their outward appearance these Indian adamites cannot be identified 
with the followers of Buddhism ; most probably they were adepts of ascetic mysticism — 
Yoga, which existed before the time of Buddha. Still more ancient was the pantheism 
of the Upanishads. There is ground to believe that the immediate forerunner of Sakya- 
muni was the author of the system of spiritualistic dualism (expounded in Sankya- 
Karika), although the person and even the name of this sage — Kapila — are somewhat 


conditions of life of his monastic brotherhood have undergone a 
number of changes in the course of history, but the moral essence 
of his teaching and work has remained in a clear-cut, crystallised 
form in the Lamaian monasteries of Mongolia and Tibet. 

The moral essence of Buddhism as an individually-social 
system has, during the two and a half thousand years of its 
historical existence, evinced itself as the feeling of religious 
reverence for the blessed master, who was the first to awake to 
the true meaning of reality, and is the spiritual progenitor of all 
who subsequently became awake ; as the demand for holiness or 
'perfect absence of will (the inner asceticism in contradistinction to 
the external mortification of the flesh which had been and still 
is practised by the ' Gymnosophists,' and which did not satisfy 
Buddha Sakya-muni) ; and, finally, as the commandment of universal 
benevolence or kindly compassion to all beings. It is this latter, 
the simplest and most attractive aspect of Buddhism, that brings 
to light the defects of the whole doctrine. 


What, from the Buddhistic point of view, is the difference 
between the man who is spiritually awake and the man who 
is not ? The latter, influenced by the delusions of sense, takes 
apparent and transitory distinctions to be real and final, and 
therefore desires some things ■ and fears others, is attracted and 
repelled, feels love and hate. The one who has awakened from 
these dream emotions understands that their objects are illusory 
and is therefore at rest. Finding nothing upon which it would 
be worth his while to concentrate his will, he becomes free from 
all willing, preference, and fear, and therefore loses all cause for 
dissension, anger, enmity and hatred, and, free from these passions, 
he experiences for everything, without exception, the same 
feeling of benevolence or compassion. But why should he 
experience precisely this feeling ? Having convinced himself 
that all is empty, that the objective conditions of existence are 
vain and illusory, the awakened sage ought to enter a state of 
perfect impassibility, equally free both from malice and from pity. 
For both these opposed feelings equally presuppose to begin with 
a conviction of the reality of living beings ; secondly, their 


distinction from one another (e.g. the distinction between the 
man who suffers in his ignorance and appeals to my pity, and 
the perfectly blessed Buddha who stands in no need of it) ; and, 
thirdly, pity, no less than malice, prompts us to perform definite 
actions, determined by the objective qualities and conditions 
of the given facts. Now all this is absolutely incompatible 
with the fundamental principle of universal emptiness and 
indifference. The moral teaching of Buddhism demands active 
self-sacrifice, which is involved in the very conception of a 
Buddha. The perfect Buddha — such as Gautama Sakya-muni 
— differs from the imperfect or solitary Buddha (Pratyeka Buddha) 
precisely by the fact that he is not satisfied by his own know- 
ledge of the agonising emptiness of existence, but decides to 
free from this agony all living beings. This decision was pre- 
ceded in his former incarnations by individual acts of extreme 
self-sacrifice, descriptions of which abound in Buddhist legends. 
Thus in one of his previous lives he gave himself up to be 
devoured by a tiger in order to save a poor woman and her 
children. Such holy exploits, in contradistinction to the aimless 
self-destruction of the ancient ascetics of India, are a direct 
means to the highest bliss for every one who is 'awake.' A 
well-known and typical story is told of one of the apostles of 
Buddhism — Arya-Deva. As he was approaching a city, he 
saw a wounded dog covered with worms. To save the dog 
without destroying the worms, Arya-Deva cut a piece off his 
own body and placed the worms upon it. At that moment both 
the city and the dog disappeared from his eyes, and he entered at 
once into Nirvana. 

Active self-sacrifice out of pity ' for all living beings, so 
characteristic of Buddhist morality, cannot be logically reconciled 
with the fundamental principle of Buddhism — the doctrine that 
all things are empty and indifferent. To feel equal pity for 
every one, beginning with Brahma and Indra, and ending with 
a worm, is certainly not opposed to the principle of indifference ; 
but as soon as the feeling of universal compassion becomes the 
work of mercy, the indifference must be given up. If instead 
of a dog with worms, Arya-Deva had met a man suffering from 
vice and ignorance, pity to this living creature would require 
from him not a piece of his flesh, but words of true doctrine — 


while to address words of rational persuasion to a hungry worm 
would be no less absurd than to feed with his own flesh a satisfied, 
but erring, man. Equal pity to all beings demands not the same, 
but quite a different active relation to each one of them. Even 
for a Buddhist this difference proves to be not merely illusory, 
for he too would certainly admit that had Arya-Deva not 
distinguished a worm or a dog from a human being, and offered 
moral books to suffering animals, he would hardly be likely 
to have performed any holy exploit and deserved Nirvana. All- 
embracing pity necessarily involves discriminating truth, which 
gives each his due : a piece of meat to the animal, and words of 
spiritual awakening to the rational being. But we cannot stop 
at this. Pity for every one compels me to desire for all and each 
the supreme and final blessedness which consists not in satiety, 
but in complete freedom from the pain of limited existence 
and of the necessity of rebirth. This freedom, this only true 
blessedness, the worm — so long as it remains a worm — cannot 
attain ; it is possible only to a self-conscious and rational being. 
Therefore if I am to extend my pity to the lower creatures, 
I cannot be content with simply alleviating their suffering at 
a given moment. I must help them to attain the final end 
through rebirth in higher forms. But the objective conditions 
of existence are rejected by Buddhism as an illusion and empty 
dream, and consequently the ascent of living beings up the 
ladder of rebirths depends exclusively on their own actions 
(the law of Karma). The form of the worm is the necessary 
outcome of former sins, and no help from without can lift that 
worm to the higher stage of dog or elephant, Buddha himself 
could directly act only upon rational self-conscious beings, and 
that only in the sense that his preaching enabled them to accept 
or to reject the truth, and, in the first case, to escape from the 
torture of rebirth, and, in the second, continue to endure it. 
The work of salvation that those who are 'awake' can 
accomplish amounts simply to pushing their sleeping neigh- 
bours, some of whom are awakened by it, while others merely 
exchange one series of bad dreams for another, still more 

The principle of active pity to all living beings, however 
true it is in itself, can, from the Buddhist point of view, have 


no real application. We are utterly incapable of bringing true 
salvation to the lower creatures, and our power of influencing 
rational creatures in this respect is extremely limited. What- 
ever their commandments and legends may be, the very formula 
of the faith ^ indicates that the true sphere of moral relations 
and activity is for the Buddhist Hmited to the brotherhood of 
those who, like himself, are 'awake,' and support one another 
in a peaceful life of contemplation — the last remainder of their 
former activities — before they finally pass into Nirvana. 


The significance of Buddhism in the world-history Hes in the 
fact that in it the human individual was for the first time valued 
not as the member of a tribe, a caste, a state, but as the bearer 
of a higher consciousness, as a being capable of awakening from 
the deceptive dream of everyday existence, of becoming free 
from the chain of causality. This is true of man belonging to 
any caste or nationality, and in this sense the Buddhist religion 
signalises a new stage in the history of the world — the universal 
as opposed to the particular tribal or national stage. It is clear, 
however, that the universality of Buddhism is merely abstract or 
negative in character. It proclaims the principle of indifference, 
rejects the importance of the caste or the national distinctions, 
gathers into a new religious community men of all colours and 
classes — and then leaves everything as it was before. The problem 
of gathering together the disjecta membra of humanity and forming 
out of them a new and higher kingdom, is not even contemplated. 
Buddhism does not go beyond the universalism of a monastic order. 
When the transition is effected from the clan to the state, the 
former independent social wholes — the clans — enter as subordinate 
parts into the new and higher whole, the organised political union. 
Similarly, the third and highest stage of human development — the 
universal — demands that states and nations should enter as con- 
stituent parts into the all-embracing new organisation. Other- 
wise, however broad the theoretical principles might be, the 
positive significance in concrete life will entirely remain with the 
already existing national and political groups. ' All men ' and, 

' See above. 


still more, 'all living beings' will simply be an abstract idea 
symbolically expressed by the monastery that is severed from life. 
Buddhism remains perfectly strange to the task of truly uniting all 
living beings, or even the scattered parts of humanity, in a new, 
universal kingdom. It therefore proves to be merely the first 
rudimentary stage of the human understanding of life. 

The personality manifests here its infinite worth in so far as 
the absolute self negates all limitation, in so far as it asserts, " I 
am not bound by anything, I have experienced all things, and 
know that all is an empty dream and I am above it all." Negation 
of existence through the knowledge of it — this is in what, from 
the Buddhist point of view, the absolute nature of the human 
spirit consists. It lifts man above all earthly creatures and even 
above all gods, for they are gods by nature only, while the awakened 
sage becomes god through his own act of consciousness and will : 
he is an auto-god, a god self-made. All creation is material for 
the exercise of will and of knowledge, by means of which the 
individual is to become divine. Single individuals who have 
entered upon the path that leads to this end form the normal society 
or brotherhood (the monastic order) which is included in the 
Buddhist confession of faith (I take my refuge ... in the 
Sangha). But this society obviously has significance temporarily 
only, until its members attain perfection ; in Nirvana communal 
life, like all other determinations, must disappear altogether. In 
so far as the absolute character of the personality is understood in 
Buddhism in the negative sense only, as freedom from all things, 
the individual stands in no need of completion. All his relations 
to other persons simply form a ladder which is pushed away as soon 
as the height of absolute indifference is attained. The negative 
character of the Buddhist ideal renders morality itself, as well 
as all social life, a thing of purely transitory and conditional 

The religiously-moral feeling of reverence (pietas) has in 
Buddhism no true and abiding object. The sage who knows all 
things and has become free from everything finds no longer any- 
thing to worship. When Buddha Sakya-muni attained to the 
supreme understanding, not only Indra with the host of all the 
Vedanta deities, but the supreme god of the all-powerful priests, 
Brahma, came like a humble listener to hear the new doctrine, 


and, becoming enlightened, worshipped the teacher. And yet 
Buddha was a man, who by his own power became god or reached 
the absolute state — and this is the supreme goal for every human 
being. Buddhists reverence the memory and the relics of their 
teacher to the point of idolatry, but this is only possible so 
long as the worshippers are still imperfect. The perfect 
disciple who has attained Nirvana no longer differs from Buddha 
himself, and loses all object of religious feeling. Therefore, in 
principle, the Buddhist ideal destroys the possibility of the religious 
relation, and, in its inmost essence, Buddhism is not only a religion 
of negation, but a religion of self-negation. 

The altruistic part of morality also disappears at the higher 
stages of the true way, for then all distinctions are seen to be 
illusory, including those which evoke in us a feeling of pity towards 
certain objects, events, and states. " Be merciful to all beings," 
proclaims the elementary moral teaching of the Sutras. " There 
are no beings, and all feeling is the fruit of ignorance," declares 
the higher metaphysics of Abhidhamma.^ Not even the ascetic 
morality has positive justification in Buddhism, in spite of its 
monasteries. These monasteries are simply places of refuge for 
contemplative souls who have given up worldly vanity and are 
awaiting their entrance into Nirvana. But the positive moral 
asceticism — struggle with the flesh for strengthening the spirit 
and spiritualising the body — lies altogether outside the range of 
Buddhist thought. The spirit is for it only the knower, and the 
body a phantom known as such. Bodily death, the sight of 
which had so struck Prince Siddhartha, merely proves that life is 
illusion, from which we must become free ; but no Buddhist 
w^ould dream of resurrection. If, however, the supreme goal of 
asceticism is absent, the means towards it can have no significance. 
From the point of view of absolute indifference ascetic rules, like 
all other, lose their own inherent meaning. They are preserved 
in the external practice of Buddhism simply as pedagogical means 
for spiritual babes, or as the historical legacy of Brahmanism. The 
perfect Buddhist will certainly not refrain from plentiful food, or 
distinguish between meat and vegetable diet. It is very remark- 

^ The Buddhist doctrine is divided into three sections of the Holy Law, called, there- 
fore, ' The three baskets ' (Tripitaka) : Sutra contains the moral doctrine, VinSya the 
monastic rules, and Abhidhamma the transcendental wisdom. 


able that according to the legend, the truth of which there is no 
reason to doubt, the founder of this religion, which is supposed 
to demand strict vegetarianism, died of having unwisely partaken 
of pig's flesh. 


Like every negative doctrine Buddhism is dependent upon 
what it denies — upon this material world, this sensuous and mortal 
life. "All this is illusion," it repeats — and it gets no further,. for 
to it this illusion is everything. It knows with certainty only 
what it denies. Of what it affirms, of what it regards as not 
illusory, it has no positive idea at all, but determines it negatively 
only : Nirvana is inaction, immovability, stillness, non-existence. 
Buddhism knows only the lower, the illusory ; the higher and the 
perfect it does not know, but merely demands it. Nirvana is only 
a postulate, and not the idea of the absolute good. The idea came 
from the Greeks and not from the Hindus. 

Human reason, having discovered its own universal and 
absolute nature by rejecting everything finite and particular, 
could not rest content with this first step. From the conscious- 
ness that the material existence is illusory it was bound to pass 
to that which is not illusory, to that for the sake of which it 
rejected deceptive appearance. In Indian Buddhism the person- 
ality finds its absolute significance in the rejection of being that is 
unworthy of it. In Greek thought, which found its practical 
embodiment in Socrates, and w^as put into a theoretical form by 
his pupil, the absolute value of personality is justified by the affirma- 
tion of being that is worthy of it — of the world of ideas and ideal 
relations. Greek idealism no less than Buddhism realises that 
all transitory things are illusory, that the flux of material reality 
is only the phantom of being, is essentially non-being (rb fvq ov). 
The practical pessimism of the Buddhist is entirely shared by 
the Greek consciousness. 

" Whoso craves the ampler length of life, not content to 
desire a modest span, him will I judge with no uncertain voice : 
he cleaves to folly. For the long days lay up full many things 
nearer grief than joy ; but as for thy delights, their place shall 


know them no more, when a man's life hath lapsed beyond the 
fitting term." ^ 

Although there is here involved the conception of measure so 
characteristic of the Greek mind, reflection does not stop at this. 
Not only a disproportionately long Hfe,but a// life is nothing but pain. 

" Not to be born is, past all prizing, best ; but when a man 
hath seen the light, this is next best by far, that with all speed he 
should go thither, whence he hath come. 

" For when he hath seen youth go by, with its light follies, 
what troublous affliction is strange to his lot, what suffering is not 
therein ? — envy, frictions, strife, battles, and slaughters ; and last 
of all, age claims him for her own — age, dispraised, infirm, 
unsociable, unfriended, with whom all woe of woe abides." ^ 

It was as clear to the Greek higher consciousness as to the 
Hindu that human will blindly striving for material satisfaction 
cannot find it under any material conditions, and that therefore 
the real good from this point of view is not the enjoyment of life 
but the absence of life. 

"The Deliverer comes at the last to all alike — when the doom 
of Hades is suddenly revealed, without marriage song, or lyre, or 
dance — even Death at the last." ^ 

This pessimistic conception expressed by poetry was also 
confirmed by Greek philosophy in sentences which have become 
the alphabetic truths of all idealistic and spiritualistic morality : 
sensuous life is the prison of the spirit, body is the coffin of the 
soul, true philosophy is the practice of death, etc. But although 
the Greek genius appropriated this fundamental conception of 
Buddhism, it did not stop there. The non-sensuous aspect of 
reality revealed to it its ideal content. In the place of Nirvana 
the Greeks put the Cosmos of eternal intelligible essences 
(Platonic Ideas) or the organism of universal reason (in the philo- 
sophy of the Stoics). Human personality now affirms its 
absolute significance not by merely denying what is false, but by 
intellectually participating in what is true. The personal bearer 
of this higher universal consciousness is not the monk who 
renounces the illusion of the real being, in accordance with 
the principle of indifference, but the philosopher who shares in. 
the fulness of the ideal being in the inner unity of its many 

1 The Oedipus Coloneus. ^ Ibid. ' Ibid. 


forms. Neither the one nor the other wishes to live by the senses, 
but the setond lives by his intellect in the w^orld of pure Ideas, 
that is, of what is worthy of existence, and is therefore true and 
eternal. It is a dualistic point of view : all that exists has a true 
positive aspect, in addition to the false, material side. With 
regard to the latter the Greek philosophers adopt an attitude as 
negative as the Hindu ' Gymnosophists.' That which to the 
senses and sensibility is a deceptive appearance contains for reason 
'a reflection of the Idea,' according to Plato, or 'the seed of 
Reason,' according to the Stoics (Aoyot (nrepfiartKoi). Hence in 
human life there is an opposition between that which is con- 
formable to Ideas and in harmony with Reason, and that which 
contradicts the ideal norm. The true sage is no longer a simple 
hermit or a wandering monk, who has renounced life and is 
mildly preaching the same renunciation to others ; he is one who 
boldly denounces the wrong and irrational things of life. Hence 
the end is diiFerent in the two cases. Buddha Sakya-muni peacefully 
dies after a meal with his disciples, while Socrates, condemned and 
put to prison by his fellow-citizens, is sentenced by them to 
drink a poisoned cup. But in spite of this tragic ending, the 
attitude of the Greek idealist to the reality unworthy of him is 
not one of decisive opposition. The highest representative of 
humanity at this stage — the philosopher — is conscious of his 
absolute worth in so far as he lives by pure thought in the truly- 
existent intelligible realm of Ideas or of the all-embracing 
rationality, and despises the false, the merely phenomenal being of 
the material and sensuous world. This contempt, when bold and 
genuine, rouses the anger of the crowd which is wholly engrossed 
with the lower things, and the philosopher may have to pay for 
his idealism with his life — as was the case with Socrates. But 
in any case his attitude to the unworthy reality is merely one of 
contempt. The contempt is certainly different in kind from that 
characteristic of Buddhism. Buddha despises the world because 
everything is illusion. The very indefiniteness of this judgment, 
however, takes away its sting. If all is equally worthless, no 
one in particular is hurt by it, and if nothing but Nirvana is 
opposed to the bad reality, the latter may sleep in peace. For 
Nirvana is an absolute state and not the norm for relative states. 
Now the idealist does possess such a norm and he despises and 


condemns the life that surrounds him not because it inevitably 
shares in the illusory character of everything, but because it is 
abnormal, irrational, opposed to the Idea. Such condemnation is 
no longer neutral, it has an element of defiance and demand. It 
is slighting to all who are bound by worldly irrationality and 
therefore leads to hostility, and sometimes to persecution and the 
cup with poison. 

And yet there is something accidental about this conflict. 
Socrates condemned Athenian customs all his life long but he 
was not persecuted for it until he was an old man of seventy ; the 
persecution was obviously due to a change in political circum- 
stances. The irrationality of the Athenian political order was a 
local peculiarity ; the customs of Sparta were better. The great- 
est of Socrates' pupils, Plato, went later on to Sicily in order to 
found there, with the help of Dionysius of Syracuse, an ideal state 
in which philosophers would receive the reins of government 
instead of a cup of poison. He did not succeed, but on 
returning to Athens he was able to teach in his academy without 
hindrance, and lived undisturbed to a profound old age. The 
disciples of Socrates, as well as other preachers of idealism, never 
suffered systematic persecution ; they were disliked but tolerated. 
The fact is that idealism by the nature of the case has its centre 
of gravity in the intelligible world. The opposition it establishes 
between the normal and the abnormal, the right and the wrong, 
though comparatively definite, remains essentially intellectual and 
theoretical. It touches upon the reality it condemns but does 
not penetrate to the heart of it. We know how superficial were 
the practical ideals of Plato, the greatest of the idealists. They 
come much nearer to the bad reality than to what truly is. The 
realm of Ideas is an all-embracing, absolutely-universal unity ; 
there are no limitations, dissensions, or hostility in it. But Plato's 
pseudo-ideal state, though involving some bold conceptions and a 
general beauty of form, is essentially connected with such limita- 
tions of which humanity soon freed itself not in idea only but in 
reality. His state of philosophers is nothing more than a narrow, 
local, nationally Greek community based upon slavery, constant 
warfare, and such relations between the sexes as remind one of 
stables for covering. It is clear that the political problem is not 
in any inner connection with Plato's main interest and that he 


does not really care in what way men are going to live upon 
earth, where truth does not and will not dwell. He finds his own 
true satisfaction in the contemplation of eternal intelligible truth. 
The natural impulse to realise or embody truth in the environ- 
ment is checked by two considerations, which idealism necessarily 
involves. The first is the conviction that though the ideal truth 
can be reflected or impressed upon the surface of real existence, 
it cannot become substantially incarnate in it. The second is 
the belief that our own spirit is connected with this reality in a 
purely transitory and external feshion, and therefore can have no 
absolute task to fulfil in it. 

The dying Socrates rejoiced at leaving this world of false 
appearance for the realm of what truly is. Such an attitude 
obviously excludes in the last resort all practical activity ; there 
can in that case be neither any obligation nor any desire to devote 
oneself to the changing of this life, to the salvation of this world. 
Platonic idealism, like Buddhist nihilism, lifts up human person- 
ality to the level of the absolute, but does not create for it a social 
environment corresponding to its absolute significance. The 
brotherhood of monks, like the state of philosophers, is merely a 
temporal compromise of the sage with the false existence. His 
true satisfaction is in the pure indifference of Nirvana, or in 
the purely intelligible world of Ideas. Are we to say, then, .that 
for idealism too the actual life is devoid of meaning ? We discover 
at this point so great an inner contradiction in the idealistic line 
of thought that human consciousness is unable to stop at this 
stage and to accept it as the highest truth. 


If the world in which we live did not share in the ideal or the 
true being at all, idealism itself would be impossible. The direct 
representative of the ideal principle in this world is, of course, the 
philosopher himself, who contemplates that which truly is. But 
the philosopher did not drop down from heaven ; his reason is 
only the highest expression of the universal human reason em- 
bodied in the word which is an essentially universal fact and is the 
real idea or the sensible reason. This was clearly perceived by 
Heraclitus, worked out and explained by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, 


and Zeno the Stoic. But the presence of the higher principle is 
not limited to the human world. The purposive organisation and 
movements of living creatures and the general teleological con- 
nection of events provided Socrates himself with his favourite 
argument for proving the presence of reason in the world. The 
ideal principle, however, is found not only where there is evidence 
of purpose ; it extends to all determinate being and excludes only 
the principle directly opposed to it — the unlimited, the chaos 
(rb a.Treipov = Tb /xij 6V). Measure, Hmit, norm, necessarily in- 
volve Reason and Idea. But if so, the opposition, so essential for 
idealism, between the world of sensible appearances and the world 
of intelligible essences proves to ,be relative and changeable. 
Since all determinate existence participates in Ideas, the difference 
can only be in the degree of the participation. A plant or an 
animal exhibits a greater wealth of definitely-thought content, and 
stands in more complex and intimate relations to all other things 
than a simple stone or an isolated natural event. Therefore we 
must admit that animal and vegetable organisms have a greater 
share of the Idea or a greater degree of ideality than a stone or a 
pool of water. Further, every human being as possessing the 
power of speech or capable of rational thought, presents, as com- 
pared with an animal, a greater degree of ideality. The same 
relation holds between an ignorant man given to passions and 
vices and the philosopher whose word is an expression of reason 
not only in the formal sense but in its concrete application. 
Finally, even philosophers differ from one another in the degree 
to which they have mastered the higher truth. This difference 
in the degree of rationality in the world, ranging from a cobble- 
stone to the 'divine' Plato, is not anything meaningless or 
opposed to the Idea. It would be that if reason demanded in- 
difference and the ' Idea ' designated uniformity. But reason is 
the universal connectedness of all things, and the Idea is the form 
of the inner union of the many in the one. (Take, e.g.:, the idea of 
the organism which includes many parts and elements subservient 
to a common end ; or the idea of the state combining a multitude 
of interests in one universal good ; or the idea of science, in which 
many pieces of information form a single truth.) Therefore our 
reality, in which innumerable things and events are combined and 
coexist in one universal order, must be recognised as essentially 



rational or conformable to the Idea. Condemnation of this reality 
on the part of the idealist can in justice refer not to the general 
nature of the world, or to the differences of degree that follow 
from it and are essential to the higher unity, but only to such 
mutual relation of degrees as does not correspond to their inner 
dignity. The Idea of man is not violated but completed by the 
&ct that in addition to intellect man has active will and sensuous 
receptivity. But since intellect, which contemplates universal 
truth, is essentially higher than desires and sensations, which are 
limited to the particular, it ought to dominate them. If, on the 
contrary, these lower aspects gain the upper hand in the life of 
man, his Idea becomes distorted and what takes place in him is 
abnormal and meaningless. In the same way, the distinction of 
state or class is not opposed to the idea of civic community pro- 
vided the interrelation between the classes is determined by their 
inner quality. But if a group of men who have more capacity 
for menial work than for knowledge and realisation of higher 
truth dominate the community and take into their hands the 
government and the education of the people, while men of true 
knowledge and wisdom are forced to devote their powers to 
physical labour, then the state contradicts its Idea and loses all its 
meaning. The supremacy of the lower faculties of the soul over 
reason in the individual, and the supremacy of the material class 
over the intellectual in society, are instances of one and the same 
kind of distortion and absurdity. This is how idealism regards 
it when it resolutely denounces the fundamental evil both of the 
mental and of the social life of man. It is for thus denouncing 
it that Socrates had tb die, but, strange to say, not even this 
tragic fact made his disciples realise that in addition to the moral 
and political there exists in the world a third kind of evil — the 
physical evil, death. This illogical limitation to the first two 
anomalies — the bad soul and the bad society, — this artificial break 
between the morally-social and the naturally- organic life is 
characteristic of the idealist point of view as of an intermediary 
and transitional stage of thought, a half-hearted and half-expressed 

And yet it is clear that the dominion of death in the world of 
the living is the same kind of disorder, the same distortion of 
degrees, as the mastery of blind passions in the rational soul or the 


mastery of the mob in human society. There is no doubt that 
the inwardly purposive structure and life of the organism realises 
the ideal principle in nature in a greater measure and a higher 
degree than do the elementary forces of inorganic substance. It 
is clear then that the triumph of these forces over life, their escape 
from its powder and the final disruption of the organism by them, 
is contradictory to the normal, ideal order, is senseless or anomalous. 
Life does not destroy the lower forces of substance but subordinates 
them to itself and thereby vivifies them. It is clear that such 
subordination of the lower to the higher is the norm, and that 
therefore the reverse relation, involving, as it does, the destruction 
of the higher form of existence in its given reality, cannot be 
justified or pronounced legitimate from the point of view of reason 
and of the Idea. Death is not an Idea, but the rejection of the 
Idea, the rebellion of blind force against reason. Therefore 
Socrates' joy at his death was, strictly speaking, simply an excus- 
able and touching weakness of an old man wearied by the troubles 
of life, and not an expression of the higher consciousness. In a 
mind occupied with the essence of things and not with personal 
feeling, this death ought to evoke, instead of joy, a double grief. 
Grievous vi^as the sentence of death as a social wrong, as the 
triumph of the wicked and ignorant over the righteous and the 
wise ; grievous was the process of death as a physical wrong, as 
the triumph of the blind and soulless power of a poisonous substance 
over a living and organised body, the abode of a rational spirit. 

Jll the world — not merely the mental and political, but the 
physical world as well — suffers from the violated norm and stands 
in need of help. And it can be helped not by the will-lessness of 
the ascetic, renouncing all life and all social environment, not by 
the intellectual contemplation of the philosopher who lives by 
thought alone in the realm of Ideas, but by the living power of the 
entire human being possessing absolute significance not negatively 
or ideally only, but as a concrete reality. Such a being is the 
perfect man or the God-man, who does not forsake the world 
for Nirvana or the realm of Ideas, but comes into the world in 
order to save it and regenerate it and make it the Kingdom ot 
God, so that the perfect individual could find his completion in 
the perfect society. 



The absolute moral significance of human personality demands 
perfection or fulness of life. This demand is not satisfied either 
by the mere negation of imperfection (as in Buddhism) or by 
the merely ideal participation in perfection (as in Platonism 
and all idealism). It can only be satisfied by perfection being 
actually present and realised in the whole man and in the whole 
of human life. This is what true Christianity stands for and 
wherein it essentially differs from Buddhism and Platonism. 
Without going at present into the metaphysical aspect of Chris- 
tianity, I am simply referring here to the fact that Christianity 
— and it alone — is based upon the idea of the really perfect man 
and perfect society, and therefore promises to fulfil the demand for 
true infinity, inherent in our consciousness. It is clear that in 
order to attain this purpose it is necessary first of all to cease to be 
satisfied with the limited and unworthy reality, and to renounce it. 
It is equally clear, however, that this is only the first step, and that 
if man goes no further he is left with a mere negation. This 
first step which the universal human consciousness had to take, but 
at which it ought not to stop, is represented by Buddhism. Having 
renounced the unworthy reality, I ought to replace it by what is 
worthy of existence. But to do so I must first understand or 
grasp the very idea of worthy existence — this is the second step, 
represented by idealism. And once more it is clear that we 
cannot stop at this. Truth which is thinkable only and not 
realisable — truth which does not embrace the whole of life — is not 
what is demanded, is not absolute perfection. The third and final 
step which Christianity enables us to take consists in a positive 
realisation of worthy existence in all things. 

The Nirvana of the Buddhists is external to everything — it is 
negative universalism. The ideal cosmos of Plato represents only 
the intelligible or the thinkable aspect of everything — it is incomplete 
universalism. The Kingdom of God, revealed by Christianity, 
alone actually embraces everything^ and is positive^ complete^ and 
perfect universalism. It is clear that at the first two stages of univer- 
salism the absolute element in man is not developed to the end, and 
therefore r&mz\ns fruitless. Nirvana lies outside the boundaries of 
every horizon j the world of Ideas, like the starry heaven, envelops 


the earth but is not united to it ; the absolute principle incarnate 
in the Sun of Truth alone penetrates to the inmost depths of 
earthly reality, brings forth a new life, and manifests itself as 
a new order of being — as the all-embracing Kingdom of God : 
virtus ejus integra si versa fuerit in terram}- And without the 
earth there can be no heaven for man. 

We have seen that Buddhism, unable to satisfy the uncondi- 
tional principle of morality and bring about the fulness of life or 
the perfect society, is destructive, when consistently worked out, of 
the chief foundations of morality as such. The same thing must 
be said with regard to Platonism, Where is a consistent idealist 
to find an object for his piety ? The popular gods he regards 
sceptically, or at best with wise restraint. The ideal essences, 
which are for him the absolute truth, cannot be an object of religious 
worship neither for his mortal ' body,' which knows nothing 
about them, nor for his immortal spirit, which knows them too 
intimately and, in immediate contemplation, attains complete 
equality with them. Religion and religious morality is a bond 
between the higher and the lower — a bond which idealism, with 
its dual character, breaks up, leaving on the one side the divine 
incorporeal and sterile spirit, and on the other, the material body 
utterly lacking in what is divine. But the bond thus severed by 
idealism extends farther still. It is the basis of pity as well as 
of reverence. What can be an object of pity for a consistent 
idealist ? He knows only two orders of being — the false, material, 
and the true, ideal being. The false being, as Anaximander of 
Miletus had taught before Plato, ought in justice to suffer and to 
perish, and it deserves no pity. The true, from its essence, can- 
not suffer, and therefore cannot excite pity — and this was the 
reason why the dying Socrates did nothing but rejoice at leaving 
a world unworthy of pity for a realm where there is no object 
for it. Finally, idealism provides no real basis for the ascetic 
morality either. A consistent idealist is ashamed of the general 
fact of having a body, in the words of the greatest of Plato's 
followers — Plotinus, but such shame has no significance from the 
moral point of view. It is impossible for man so long as he lives 
on earth to be incorporeal, and, according to the indisputable rule 
ad impossibilia nemo ohligatur^ the shame of one's corporeality 

' "It« power is whole when it turns to the earth " {Tabula smaragdina). 


either demands that we should commit suicide or demands nothing 
at all. 

If instead of taking Buddhism and Platonism to be what they 
really were, viz. necessary stages of human consciousness, we regard 
either the one or the other as the last word of universal truth, the 
question is, what precisely had they given to humanity, what did 
they gain for it ? Taken in and for themselves they have neither 
given nor promised anything. There had been from all eternity 
the opposition between Nirvana and Sansara — empty bliss for the 
spiritually awake, and empty pain for the spiritually asleep ; there 
had been the inexorable law of causal actions and caused states — 
the law of Karma, which through a series of innumerable rebirths 
leads a being from painful emptiness to empty bliss. As it was 
before Buddha, so it remained after him, and so it will remain for 
all eternity. From the point of view of Buddhism itself, not one 
of its followers capable of critical reflection can af&rm that 
Buddha had changed anything in the world, order, had created 
anything new, had actually saved any one. Nor is there any room 
for promise in the future. The same thing must in the long-run 
be said of idealism. There is the eternal realm of intelligible 
essences which truly is and the phenomenal world of sensuous 
appearance. There is no bridge between the two ; to be in the 
one means not to be in the other. Such duality has always been 
and will remain for ever. Idealism gives no reconciliation in the 
present and no promise of it in the future.^ 

Christianity has a diiFerent message. It both gives and 
promises to humanity something new. It gives the living image 
of a personality possessing not the merely negative perfection 
of indifference or the merely ideal perfection of intellectual 
contemplation, but perfection absolute and entire, fully realised, 
and therefore victorious over death. Christianity reveals to 
men the absolutely perfect and therefore physically immortal 
personality. It promises mankind a perfect society built upon 
the pattern of this personality. And since such a society cannot 
be created by an external force (for in that case it would be imper- 

' Plato's thought rose for a moment to the conception of Eros as the bridge between 
the world of true being and the material reality, but did not follow it out. In enigmatic 
expressions the philosopher indicated this bridge, but was incapable of crossing it him- 
self or leading others across it. 


feet), the promise of it sets a task before humanity as a whole 
and each man individually, to co-operate with the perfect personal 
power revealed to the world in so transforming the universe that 
it might become the embodiment of the Kingdom of God. The 
final truth, the absolute and positive universalism obviously can- 
not be either exclusively individual or exclusively social : it must 
express the completeness and fulness of the individually-social life. 
True Christianity is a perfect synthesis of three inseparable 
elements : (i) the absolute event — the revelation of the perfect 
personality, the God-man — Christ, who had bodily risen from the 
dead ; (2) the zh%o\\it& promise — of a community conformable to the 
perfect personality, or, in other words," the promise of the Kingdom 
of God ; (3) the absolute task — to further the fulfilment of that 
promise by regenerating all our individual and social environment 
in the spirit of Christ. If any one of these three foundations is 
forgotten or left out of account the whole thing becomes paralysed 
and distorted. This is the reason why the moral development and 
the external history of humanity have not stopped after the 
coming of Christ, in spite of the fact that Christianity is the 
absolute and final revelation of truth. That which has been ful- 
filled and that which has been promised stands firmly wfthin the 
precincts of eternity and does not depend upon us. But the task 
of the present is in our hands ; the moral regeneration of our life 
must be brought about by ourselves. It is with this general 
problem that the special task of moral philosophy is particularly 
concerned. It has to define and explain, within the limits of 
historical fact, what the relation between all the fundamental 
elements and aspects of the individually-social whole ought to be 
in accordance with the unconditional moral norm. 



At the historical stage reached by human consciousness in 
Christianity, moral life reveals itself as a universal and all- 
embracing task. Before going on to discuss its concrete historical 
setting, w^e must consider the view which, on principle, rejects 
morality as a historical problem or as the work of collective 
man, and entirely reduces it to the subjective moral impulses of 
individuals. This view arbitrarily puts such narrow limits to the 
human good as in reality it has never known. Strictly speaking, 
morality never has been solely the affair of personal feeling or the 
rule of private conduct. At the patriarchal stage the moral 
demands of reverence, pity, and shame were inseparably connected 
with the duties of the individual to his kinsmen. The ' moral ' 
was not distinguished from the 'social,' or the individual from the 
collective. And if the result was a morality of rather a low and 
limited order, this was not due to the fact of its being a collective 
morality, but to the generally low level and narrow limits of the 
tribal life, which expressed merely the rudimentary stage of the 
historical development. It was low and limited, however, only by 
comparison with the further progress of morality, and certainly 
not by comparison with the morality of savages living in caves and 
in trees. When the state came into being, and the domestic life 
became to a certain extent a thing apart, morality in general 
was still determined by the relation between individuals and the 
collective whole to which they belonged — henceforth a wider 
and a more complex one. It was impossible to be moral 
apart from a definite and positive relation to the state ; 



morality was in the first place a civic virtue. And the reason 
that this virtus antiqua no longer satisfies us, is not that it was 
a civic and not merely a domestic virtue, but that the civic life 
itself was too remote from the true social ideal, and was merely 
a transition from the barbarous to the truly human culture. 
Morality was rightly taken to consist in honourably serving the 
-social whole — the state, but the state itself was based upon slavery, 
constant wars, etc. ; what is to be condemned is not the social 
character of morality, but the immoral character of the 
social whole. In a similar way we condemn the ecclesi- 
astical morality of the Middle Ages, not of course because it was 
ecclesiastical, but because the Church itself was then far from being 
a truly moral organisation, and was responsible for evil as well as 
for good — the terrible evil of religious persecutions and torture — 
thus violating the unconditional principle of morality in its own 
inner domain. 

Christianity as the ' Gospel of the Kingdom ' proclaims an 
ideal that is unconditionally high, demands an absolute moraUty. 
Is this morality to be subjective only, limited to the inner states 
and individual actions of the subject ? The question contains its 
own answer ; but to make the matter quite clear, let us first grant 
all that is true in the exclusively -subjective interpretation of 
Christianity. There is no doubt that a perfect or absolute moral 
state must be inwardly fully experienced or felt by the subject — 
must become his own state, the content of his life. If perfect 
morality were recognised as subjective in this sense, the diiFerence 
would be purely verbal. But something else is really meant. 
The question is, how is this moral perfection to be attained by 
the individual ? Is it enough that each should strive to make 
himself inwardly better and act accordingly, or is it attained 
with the help of a certain social process the effects of which are 
collective as well as individual ? The adherents of the former 
theory, which reduces everything to individual moral activity, 
do not reject, of course, either the social life or the moral im- 
provement of its forms. They believe, however, that such im- 
provement is simply the inevitable consequence of the personal 
moral progress : like individual, like society. As soon as each 
person understands and reveals to others his own true nature, and 
awakens good feelings in his soul, the earth will become paradise. 


Now it is indisputable that without good thoughts and feelings 
there can be neither individual nor social morality. It is equally 
indisputable that //"all individual men were good, society would be 
good also. But to think that the actual virtue of the few best men 
is sufficient for the moral regeneration of all the others, is to pass 
into the world where babies are born out of rose-bushes, and where 
beggars, for lack of bread, eat cakes. The question we are mainly 
concerned with is not whether the individual's moral efforts are 
sufficient to make him perfect, but whether those unaided 
individual efforts can induce other people, who are making no 
moral efforts at all, to begin to make them. 


The insufficiency of the subjective good and the necessity for 
a collective embodiment of it is unmistakably proved by the whole 
course of human history. I will give one concrete illustration. 

At the end of Homer's Odyssey it is related, with obvious 
sympathy, how this typical hero of the Hellenes re-established 
justice and order in his house, having overcome at last the enmity 
of gods and men and destroyed his rivals. With his son's help 
he executed those of his servants who, during his twenty years' 
absence, when everybody had given him up for dead, sided with 
Penelope's suitors and did not oppose the latter making themselves 
at home in Odysseus's house : 

" Now when they had made an end of setting the hall in order, 
they led the maidens forth from the stablished hall, and drove 
them up in a narrow space between the vaulted room and the 
goodly fence of the court, whence none might avoid ; and wise 
Telemachus began to speak to his fellows, saying : ' God forbid 
that I should take these women's lives by a clean death, these that 
have poured dishonour on my head and on my mother, and have 
lain with the wooers.' With that word he tied the cable of a 
dark-prowed ship to a great pillar and flung it round the vaulted 
room, and fastened it aloft, that none might touch the ground 
with her feet. And even as when thrushes, long of wing, or 
doves fell into a net that is set in a thicket, as they seek to their 
roosting-place, and a loathly bed harbours them, even so the 
women held their heads all in a row, and about all their necks 


nooses were cast, that they might die by the most pitiful death. 
And they writhed with their feet for a little space, but for no long 
while. Then they led out Melanthius through the doorway and the 
court and cut ofF his nostrils and his ears with the pitiless sword, 
and drew forth his vitals for the dogs to devour raw, and cut off 
his hands and feet in their cruel anger" {Odyssey, xxii. 457-477). 

Odysseus and Telemachus were not monsters of inhumanity ; 
on the contrary, they represented the highest ideal of the Homeric 
epoch. Their personal morality was irreproachable, they were 
full of piety, wisdom, justice, and all the family virtues. Odysseus 
had, into the bargain, an extremely sensitive heart, and in spite of 
his courage and firmness in misfortune, shed tears at every con- 
venient opportunity. This very curious and characteristic feature 
attaches to him throughout the poem. As I have not in literature 
come across any special reference to this peculiar characteristic 
of the Homeric hero, I will allow myself to go into some detail. 

At his first appearance in the Odyssey he is represented as 
weeping : — 

" Odysseus ... sat weeping on the shore even as aforetime, 
straining his soul with tears and groans and griefs, and as he wept 
he looked wistfully over the unharvested deep " (v. 82-84 » ^^^o 
151, 152, 156-158). 

In his own words : " There I abode for seven years continually, 
and watered with my tears the imperishable raiment that Calypso 
gave me " (vii. 259-260). 

He wept at the thought of his distant native land and family, 
and also at remembering his own exploits : — 

"... The Muse stirred the minstrel to sing the songs or 
famous men. . . . The quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles, 
son of Peleus. . . . This song it was that the famous minstrel 
sang ; but Odysseus caught his great purple cloak with his 
stalwart hands, and drew it down over his head, and hid his 
comely fece, for he was ashamed to shed tears beneath his brows 
in presence of the Phaeacians " (viii. 73-86). 

Further : — 

" This was the song that the famous minstrel sang. But the 
heart of Odysseus melted, and the tear wet his cheeks beneath the 
eyelids. And as a woman throws herself wailing about her dead 
lord, who hath fallen before his city and the host, warding from 


his town and his children the pitiless day . . . even so pitifully 
fell the tears beneath the brows of Odysseus" (viii. 521-525). 

He weeps on being told by Circe of the journey — though a 
perfectly safe one — he has to make to Hades : — 

" Thus spaice she, but as for me, my heart was broken, and I 
wept as I sat upon the bed, and my soul had no more care to live 
and to see the sunlight " (x. 496-499). 

It is no wonder that Odysseus weeps when he sees his mother's 
shadow (xi. 87), but he is affected just as much by the shadow of 
the worst and most worthless of his followers, of whom "an evil 
doom of some god was the bane and wine out of measure" 
(xi. 61). 

"There was one, Elpenor, the youngest of us all, not very 
valiant in war, neither steadfast in mind. He was lying apart 
from the rest of my men on the housetop of Circe's sacred 
dwelling, very fain of the cool air, as one heavy with wine. Now 
when he heard the noise of the voices and of the feet of my fellows 
as they moved to and fro, he leaped up of a sudden and minded 
him not to descend again by the way of the tall ladder, but fell 
right down from the roof, and his neck was broken from the bones 
of the spine, and his spirit went down to the house of Hades" 
(x. 552-561). 

" At the sight of him I wept and had compassion on him " 
(xi. 55). 

He weeps, too, at the sight of Agamemnon : — 

" Thus we twain stood sorrowing, holding sad discourse, while 
the big tears fell fest" (xi. 465-466). 

He weeps bitterly at finding himself at last in his native 
Ithaca (xiii. 219-221), and still more so on beholding his son : — 

"... In both their hearts arose the desire of lamentation. 
And they wailed aloud, more ceaselessly than birds, sea-eagles or 
vultures of crooked claws, whose younglings the country folk have 
taken from the nest, ere yet they are fledged. Even so pitifully 
fell the tears beneath their brows" (xvi. 215-220). 

Odysseus shed tears, too, at the sight of his old dog Argus : — 

" Odysseus looked aside and wiped away a tear that he easily 
hid from Eumaeus" (xvii. 304-305). 

He weeps before assassinating the suitors, he weeps as he em- 
braces the godlike swine-herd Eumaeus, and the goodly cow-herd 


Philoetius (xxi. 225-227), and also after the brutal murder of the 
twelve maid-servants and the goat-herd Melanthius : — 

" A sweet longing came upon him to weep and to moan, for 
he remembered them every one" (xxii. 500-501). 

The last two chapters of the Odyssey also have, of course, an 
abundant share of the hero's tears : — 

"... in his heart she stirred yet a greater longing to lament, 
and he wept as he embraced his beloved wife and true" (xxiii. 

And further : — 

" Now when the steadfast goodly Odysseus saw his father thus 
wasted with age and in great grief of heart, he stood still beneath 
a tall pear tree and let fall a tear " (xxiv. 233-235). 

So far as the personal, subjective feeling is concerned Odysseus 
was obviously quite equal to the most developed and highly-strung 
man of our own day. Speaking generally, Homeric heroes were 
capable of all the moral sentiments and emotions of the heart that 
we are capable of — and that not only in relation to their neighbours 
in the narrow sense of the term, i.e. to men immediately connected 
with them by common interests, but also in relation to people 
remote and distant from them. The Phaeacians were strangers 
to the shipwrecked Odysseus, and yet what kindly human relations 
were established between him and them ! And if, in spite of all 
this, the heroes of antiquity performed with a clear conscience deeds 
which are now morally impossible for us, this was certainly not 
due to their lack of personal, subjective morality. These men were 
certainly as capable as we are of good human feelings towards both 
neighbours andstrangers. What then is the difference and what is the 
ground of the change ? Why is it that virtuous, wise, and sentimental 
men of the Homeric age thought it permissible and praiseworthy 
to hang frivolous maid-servants like thrushes and to chop unworthy 
servants as food for the dogs, while at the present day such actions 
can only be done by maniacs or born criminals ? Reasoning in 
an abstract fashion one might suppose that although the men of 
that distant epoch had good mental feelings and impulses, they had 
no conscious good principles and rules. Owing to the absence of 
a formal criterion between right and wrong, or a clear consciousness 
of the distinction between good and evil, morality was purely 
empirical in character, and even the best of men, capable of the 


finest moral emotions, could indulge unchecked in wild outbursts 
of brutality. In truth, however, we find no such formal defect in 
the thought of the ancients. 

Men of antiquity, just like ourselves, both had their good and 
bad qualities as a natural fact, and drew the distinction of principle 
between good and evil, recognising that the first was to be 
preferred unconditionally to the second. In those same poems of 
Homer which often strike us by their ethical barbarisms, the idea 
of moral duty appears with perfect clearness. Certainly Penelope's 
mode of thought and expression does not quite coincide with 
that of Kant ; nevertheless the following words of the wife of 
Odysseus contain a definite affirmation of the moral good as an 
eternal, necessary, and universal principle : — 

" Man's life is brief enough ! And if any be a hard man arid 
hard at heart, all men cry evil on him for the time to come, while 
yet he lives, and all men mock him when he is dead. But if any 
be a blameless man and blameless of heart, his guests spread abroad 
his fame over the whole earth, and many people call him noble " 
(xix. 328-334). 


The form of moral consciousness, the idea, namely, of the good 
as absolutely binding and of evil as absolutely unpermissible, was 
present in the mind of the ancients as it is in our own. It might 
be thought, however, that the important difference between us 
and them in the moral valuation of the same actions is due to 
the change in the actual content of the moral ideal. There can be 
no doubt that the Gospel has raised our ideal of virtue and holiness 
and made it much higher and wider than the Homeric ideal. But 
it is equally certain that this perfect ideal of morality, when it has 
no objective embodiment and is accepted purely in the abstract, 
produces no change whatever either in the life or in the actual 
moral consciousness of men, and does not in any way raise their 
practical standards for judging their own and other people's actions. 

It is sufficient to refer once more to the representatives of 
mediaeval Christianity, who treated the supposed enemies of their 
Church with greater cruelty than Odysseus treated the enemies 
of his family — and did so with a clear conscience, and even with 


the conviction of fulfilling a moral duty. At a time more en- 
lightened and less remote the American planters who belonged to 
the Christian faith, and therefore stood under the sign of an un- 
conditionally high moral ideal, treated their black slaves on the 
whole no better than the pagan Odysseus treated his feithless 
servants, and, like him, considered themselves right in doing so. 
So that not only their actions but even their practical consciousness 
remained unaffected by the higher truth which they theoretically 
professed in the abstract. 

I. I. Dubasov's Historical Sketches of the Tambov District 
contain an account of the exploits of K., a landowner in the 
district of Yelatma, who flourished in the 'forties of the present 
century. The Commission of Inquiry established that many serfs 
(children especially) had been tortured by him to death, and that 
on his estate there was not a single peasant who had not been 
flogged, and not a single serf-girl who had not been outraged. But 
more significant than this ■• misuse of power ' was the relation of 
the public to it. When cross-examined, most of the gentry in 
the district spoke of K. as 'a true gentleman.' Some added, 
" K. is a true Christian and observes all the rites of the Church." 
The Marshal of Nobility wrote to the Governor of the province : 
" All the district is alarmed by the troubles of Mr. K." In the 
end the ' true Christian ' was excused from legal responsibility, 
and the local gentry could set their hearts at rest.^ The same 
sympathy from men of his own class was enjoyed by another and 
still more notorious Tambov landowner, Prince U. N. G — n, of 
whom it was written with good reason to the Chief of the Police : 
" Even animals on meeting U. N. instinctively seek to hide wher- 
ever they can." '^ 

Some three thousand years elapsed between the heroes of 
Homer and the heroes of Mr. Dubasov, but no essential and stable 
change had taken place in the conduct and the moral consciousness 
of men with regard to the enslaved part of the population. The 
same inhuman relations that were approved of by the ancient 
Greeks in the Homeric age were regarded as permissible by the 
American and Russian slave -owners in the first half of the 
nineteenth century. These relations are revolting to us now, 

1 Ocherki ra Utorii Tambovskago Kraia, by I. I. Dubasov, vol. i., Tambov, 1890, 
pp. 16Z-167. ° -f^W- P- 92- 


but our ethical standards have been raised not in the course of the 
three thousand years, but only of the last thirty years (in our case 
and that of the Americans, and a few dozens of years earlier in 
Western Europe). What, then, had happened so recently ? 
What has produced in so short a period the change which long 
centuries of historical development were unable to accomplish ? 
Has some new moral conception, some new and higher ideal of 
morality appeared in our day ? 

There has been and there could have been nothing of the kind. 
No ideal can be conceived higher than that revealed eighteen 
hundred years ago. That ideal was known to the ' true Christians ' 
of the American States and the Russian provinces. They could 
learn no new idea in this respect ; but they experienced a new fact. 
The idea restricted to the subjective sphere of personal morality 
could not during thousands of years bear the fruit which it bore in 
the course of the few years when it was embodied as a social force, 
and became the common task. Under very different historical 
conditions the organised social whole invested with power decided, 
both in America and in Russia, to put an end to the too glaring 
violation of Christian justice — both human and divine — in the life 
of the community. In America it was attained at the price of 
blood, through a terrible civil war ; in Russia — by the authoritative 
action of the Government. It is owing to this fact alone that the 
fundamental demands of justice and humanity, presupposed by 
the supreme ideal though not exhaustive of it, were transferred 
from the narrow and unstable limits of subjective feeling to the 
wide and firm ground of objective reality and transformed into 
a universally binding law. And we see that this external 
political act immediately raised the standard of our inner con- 
sciousness, that is, achieved a result which millenniums of moral 
preaching alone could not achieve. The social movement and the 
action of the Government were of course themselves conditioned by 
the previous moral preaching, but that preaching had effect upon 
the majority, upon the social environment as a whole, only when 
embodied in measures organised by the Government. Owing 
to external restraint, brutal instincts were no longer able to find 
expression ; they had to pass into a state of inactivity, and were 
gradually atrophied from lack of exercise ; in most people they 
disappeared altogether and were no longer passed on to the 


generations that followed. At present even men who openly sigh 
for the serfdom make «««r(? reservations with regard to the abuse 
of the owners' power, while forty years ago that abuse was 
regarded as compatible with ' true nobility,' and even with ' true 
Christianity.' And yet there is no reason to believe that the 
fathers were intrinsically worse than the sons. 

Let it be granted that the heroes of Mr. Dubasov's chronicle, 
whom the Tambov gentry defended simply from class interests, 
were really below the average of the society around them. But 
apart from them there was a multitude of perfectly decent men, 
free from all brutality, who conscientiously felt they had a right to 
make full use of the privileges of their class — for instance, to sell 
their serfs like cattle, retail or wholesale. And if such things are 
now impossible even for scoundrels, — however much they might 
wish for them, — this objective success of the good, this concrete 
improvement of life cannot possibly be ascribed to the progress of 
personal morality. 

The moral nature of man is unchangeable in its inner 
subjective foundations. The relative number of good and bad 
men also, probably, remains unchanged. It would hardly be 
argued by any one that there are now more righteous men than 
there were some hundreds or thousands of years ago. Finally, 
there can be no doubt that the highest moral ideas and ideals, 
taken in the abstract, do not as such produce any stable improve- 
ment in life and in moral consciousness. I have referred to an 
indisputable and certain fact of history : the same and even worse 
atrocities which were committed by a virtuous pagan of the 
Homeric poem with the approval of the community were done 
thousands of years after him by the champions of Christian faith 
— the Spanish inquisitors, and by Christian slave-owners, also 
with the approval of the community, and this in spite of the fact 
that a higher ideal of individual morality has meanwhile been 
evolved. In our day such actions are only possible for lunatics 
and professional criminals. And this sudden progress is solely due 
to the feet that the organised social force was inspired by moral 
demands and transformed them into an objective law of life. 


The principle of the perfect good revealed in Christianity does 
not abolish the external structure of human society, but uses it as 
a form and an instrument for the embodiment of its own absolute 
moral content. It demands that human society should become 
morally organised. Experience unmistakably proves that when 
the social environment is not morally organised, the subjective 
demands of the good in oneself and in others are inevitably lowered. 
It is not, then, really a choice between personal or subjective 
and social morality, but between weak and strong, realised and 
unrealised morality. At every stage the moral consciousness in- 
evitably strives to realise itself both in the individual and in the 
society. The final stage diiFers from the lower stages, not, of 
course, by the fact that morality at its highest remains for ever 
subjective, i.e. powerless and unrealised — this, indeed, would be a 
strange advantage ! — but by the fact that the realisation must be 
full and all-embracing, and therefore requires a far more diiBcult, 
long, and complex process than was necessary in the case of the 
former collective embodiments of morality. In the patriarchal life 
the degree of the good of which it is capable becomes realised 
freely and easily — without any history. The formation of exten- 
sive nationally political groups, which is to realise a greater sum 
and a higher grade of the good, fills many centuries with its 
history. The moral task left us by Christianity — to form the 
environment for the actual realisation of absolute and universal 
good — is infinitely more complex. The positive conception of 
this good embraces the totality of human relations. Humanity 
morally regenerated cannot be poorer in content than natural 
humanity. The task then consists not in abolishing the 
already existing social distinctions, but in bringing them into 
right, good, or moral relation with one another. When the 
higher animal forms came to be evolved in the course of the 
cosmical process, the lower form — that of worm — was not ex- 
cluded as intrinsically unworthy, but received a new and more 
fitting position. It ceased to be the sole and obvious foundation 
of life, but decently clothed it still exists within the body in the 
form of the alimentary canal — a subservient part of the organism. 


Other formsj predominant at the lower stages, were also preserved, 
both materially and formally, as subordinate constituent parts and 
organs of a higher whole. In a similar way, Christian humanity 
— the highest form of collective spiritual life — finds realisation 
not by destroying the different forms of the social Hfe evolved in 
the course of history, but by bringing them into due relation to 
itself and to each other, in harmony with the unconditional prin- 
ciple of morality. 

The demand for such harmony deprives moral subjectivism, 
based on the wrongly conceived view of the autonomy of the will, 
of all justification. The moral will must be determined to action 
solely through itself; any subordination of it to an external rule 
or command violates its autonomy and must therefore be recog- 
nised as unworthy — this is the true principle of moral autonomy. 
But the organisation of social environment in accordance with 
the principle of the absolute good is not a limitation but ■i, fulfilment 
of the personal moral will — it is the very thing which it desires. 
As a moral being I want the good to reign upon earth, I know 
that alone I cannot bring this to pass, and I find a collective 
organisation intended for this purpose of mine. It is clear that 
such an organisation does not in any sense limit me but, on the 
contrary, removes my individual limitations, widens and strengthens 
my moral will. Every one, in so far as his will is moral, inwardly 
participates in this universal organisation of morality, and it is 
clear that relative external limitations, which may follow therefrom 
for the individual persons, are sanctioned by their own higher 
consciousness and consequently cannot be opposed to moral freedom. 
For the moral individual one thing only is important in this con- 
nection, namely, that the collective organisation should be really 
dominated by the unconditional principle of morality^ that the social 
life should indeed conform to moral standards — to the demands of 
justice and mercy in all human affairs and relations — that the 
individually-social environment should really become the organised 
good. It is clear that in subordinating himself to a social environ- 
ment which is itself subordinate to the principle of the absolute good 
and conformable to it, the individual cannot lose anything. Such 
a social environment is from the nature of the case incompatible 
with any arbitrary limitation of personal rights and still less with 
rude violence or persecution. The degree of subordination of the 


individual to society must correspond to the degree of subordination 
of society to the moral good, apart from which social environment 
has no claim whatever upon the individual. Its rights arise 
simply from the moral satisfaction which it gives to every person. 
This aspect of moral universalism will be further developed and 
explained in the next chapter. 

As to the autonomy of the bad will, no organisation of the 
good can prevent conscious evil-doers from desiring evil for its 
own sake and from acting in that direction. The organisation of 
the good is concerned merely with external limitations of the 
evil reality — limitations that inevitably follow from the nature 
of man and the meaning of history. These objective limits to 
objective evil, necessarily presupposed by the organisation of 
the good but not by any means exhaustive of it, will be dis- 
cussed later on in the chapters on punishment and on the relation 
between legal justice and morality. 



The true definition of society as an organised morality disposes of 
the two false theories that are fashionable in our day — the view of 
moral subjectivism which prevents the moral will from being con- 
cretely realised in the hfe of the community, and the theory of 
social realism, according to which given social institutions and in- 
terests are of supreme significance in and for themselves, so that 
the highest moral principles prove at best to be simply the means or 
the instrument for safeguarding those interests. From this point 
of view, at present extremely prevalent, this or that concrete form 
of social life is essential per se, although attempts are made to give 
it a moral justification by connecting it with moral norms and 
principles. But the very fact of seeking a moral basis for human 
society proves that neither any concrete form of social life nor 
social life as such is the highest or the final expression of human 
nature. If man were defined as essentially a social animal [^mov 
iroXiTLKov) and nothing more, the intension of the term ' man ' would 
be very much narrowed and its extension would be considerably 
increased. Humanity would then include animals such as ants, of 
whom social life is as essential a characteristic as it is of man. 
Sir John Lubbock, the greatest authority on the subject, writes : 
" Their nests are no mere collections of independent individuals, 
nor even temporary associations like the flocks of migratory birds, 
but organised communities labouring with the utmost harmony 
for the common good." ^ These communities sometimes contain 
a population so numerous that, in the words of the same naturalist, 

' Anti, Bees, and Wasps, by Sir John Lubbock, 7th ed., p. 119. 


of human cities London and Pekin can alone be compared to 
them.^ Far more important are the three following inner 
characteristics of the ants' community. They have a complex 
social organisation. There is a distinct difference between differ- 
ent communities in the degree of that organisation — a difference 
completely analogous to the gradual development in the forms of 
human culture from the hunting to the agricultural stage. It 
proves that the social life of ants did not arise in any accidental 
or exceptional fashion but developed according to certain general 
sociological laws. Finally, the social tie is remarkably strong and 
stable, and there is wonderful practical solidarity between the 
members of the ants' community, so far as the common good is 

With regard to the first point, if division of labour be the 
characteristic feature of civilised life, it is impossible to deny 
civilisation to ants. Division of labour is in their case carried 
out very sharply. They have very brave soldiers armed with 
enormously developed pincer-like jaws by which they adroitly 
seize and snap off the heads of their enemies, but who are in- 
capable of doing anything else. They have workmen remarkable 
for their skill and industry. They have gentlemen with opposite 
characteristics who go so far that they can neither feed them- 
selves nor move about and only know how to use other ants' 
services. Finally, they have slaves (not to be confused with 
workmen ^) who are obtained by conquest and belong to other 
species of ants, which fact does not, however, prevent them from 
being completely devoted to their masters. Apart from such 
division of labour, the high degree of civilisation possessed by ants 
is proved by their keeping a number of domestic animals {i.e. 
tamed insects belonging to other zoological groups ), " So that we 
may truly say," Sir John Lubbock remarks, of course with some 
exaggeration, " that our English ants possess a much greater variety 
of domestic animals than we do ourselves." * 

Some of these domestic insects carefully brought up by ants 
serve for food (in particular the plant-lice aphidae, which Linnaeus 

' Attts, Bees, and pfasps, by Sir John Lubbock, 7th ed., p. 119. 
^ Working ants (like working bees) do not form a distinct species ; they are de- 
scended from the common queen but are sexually under-developed. 
' Ibid. p. 73. 


calls ants' cows [Aphis formicarum vaccd) ; others perform certain 
necessary work in the community, e.g. act as dustmen ; the third, 
in Lubbock's opinion, are kept simply for amusement like our 
pug-dogs or canaries. The entomologist Andr6 has made a list 
of 584 species of insects which are usually found in ants' com- 

At the present time many large and well-populated communities 
of ants live chiefly on the large stores of vegetable products they 
collect. Crowds of working ants skilfully and systematically cut 
blades of grass and stems of leaves — reap them, as it were. But 
this semblance of agriculture is neither their only nor their original 
means of subsistence. "We find," writes Lubbock, "in the 
different species of ants different conditions of life, curiously 
answering to the earlier stages of human progress. For instance, 
some species, such as Formica fusca^ live principally on the produce 
of the chase ; for though they feed partly on the honey-dew of 
aphides, they have not domesticated those insects. These ants 
probably retain the habits once common to all ants. They resemble 
the lower races of men, who subsist mainly by hunting. Like 
them they frequent woods and wilds, live in comparatively small 
communities, and the instincts of collective action are but little 
developed among them. They hunt singly, and their battles are 
single combats, like those of the Homeric heroes. Such species 
as Lassius flavus represent a distinctly higher- type of social life ; 
they show more skill in architecture, may literally be said to have 
domesticated certain species of aphides, and may be compared to 
the pastoral stage of human progress, to the races which live on the 
produce of their flocks and herds. Their communities are more 
numerous ; they act much more in concert ; their battles are not 
mere single combats, but they know how to act in combination. 
I am disposed to hazard the conjecture that they will gradually 
exterminate the mere hunting species, just as savages disappear 
before more advanced races. Lastly, the agricultural nations may 
be compared with the harvesting ants. Thus there seem to be 
three principal types^ offering a curious analogy to the three great 
phases — the hunting, pastoral, and agricultural stages in the history 
of human development." ^ 

In addition to the complexity of social structure and the 

1 P. 91. 


graduated stages in the development of culture, ants' societies are 
also noted, as has been said above, for the remarkable stability of 
the social tie. Our author continually remarks on ' the greatest 
harmony that reigns between members of one and the same com- 
munity.' This harmony is exclusively conditioned by the common 
good. On the ground of many observations and experiments, Sir 
John Lubbock proves that whenever an individual ant undertakes 
something useful for the community and exceeding its own powers, 
e.g. attempts to bring to the ant-heap a dead fly or beetle it has 
come across, it always calls and finds comrades to help it. When, 
on the contrary, an individual ant gets into trouble which concerns 
it alone, this does not as a rule excite any sympathy whatever and 
no help is rendered to it. The patient scientist had a number of 
times brought separate ants into a state of insensibility by chloroform 
or spirits and found that their fellow-citizens either did not take the 
slightest notice of the unfortunate ones or threw them out as dead. 
Tender sympathy with personal grief is not connected with any 
social function and therefore does not form part of the idea of social 
life as such. But the feeling of civic duty or the devotion to 
general order are so great among ants that they never have any 
quarrels or civil wars. Their armies are intended solely for outside 
wars. And even in the highly developed communities, which have 
a special class of dustmen and a breed of domestic clowns, not a 
single observer could discover any trace of organised police or 


Social life is at least as essential a characteristic of these insects 
as it is of man. If, however, we do not admit that they are equal 
to ourselves — if we do not agree to bestow upon each of the in- 
numerable ants living in our forests the rights of man and of 
citizen, it means that man has another and a more essential 
characteristic, one that is independent of social instincts and, on 
the contrary, conditions the distinctive character of human society. 
This characteristic consists in the fact that each man, as such, is 
a moral being — i.e. a being who, apart from his social utility, has 
absolute worth and absolute right to live and freely develop his 
positive powers. It directly follows from this that no man under 


any conditions and not for any reason may be regarded as only a means 
for purposes extraneous to himself. We cannot be merely an 
instrument either for the good of another person or for the good of a 
whole class or even for the so-called common good, i.e. the good of 
the majority of men. This ' common good ' or ' general utility ' 
has a claim not upon man as a person, but upon his activity or 
work to the extent to which that work, being useful for the com- 
munity, secures at the same time a worthy existence to the worker. 
The right of the person as such is based upon his human dignity 
inherent in him and inalienable, upon the formal infinity of reason 
in every human being, upon the fact that each person is unique and 
individual, and must therefore be an end in himself and not merely 
a means or an instrument. This right of the person is from its 
very nature unconditional, while the rights of the community with 
regard to the person are conditioned by the recognition of his in- 
dividual rights. Society, therefore, can compel a person to do 
something only through an act of his own will, — otherwise it will 
not be a case of laying an obligation upon a person, but of making 
use of a thing. This does not mean, of course (as one of my 
critics imagined), that in order to pass a legal or administrative 
measure, the central power must ask the individual consent of each 
person. The moral principle in its application to politics logically 
involves not an absurd liberum veto of this kind, but the right of 
each responsible person freely to change his allegiance as well as 
his religion. In other words, no social group or institution has a 
right forcibly to detain any one among its members. 

The human dignity of each person or his nature as a moral 
being does not in any way depend upon his particular qualities or 
his social utility. Such qualities and utility may determine man's 
external position in society and the relative value set upon him by 
other people ; they do not determine his own worth and his human 
rights. Many animals are by nature far more virtuous than many 
human beings. The conjugal virtue of pigeons and storks, the 
maternal love of hens, the gentleness of deer, the faithfulness and 
devotion of dogs, the good nature of seals and dolphins, the industry 
and civic virtues of ants and bees, etc., are characteristic quaHties 
adorning our younger brothers, while they are by no means pre- 
dominant in the majority of human beings. Why is it then that 
it has never occurred to any one to deprive the most worthless of 


men of his human rights in order to pass them to the most excellent 
of animals as a reward for its virtue ? As to utility, not only one 
strong horse is more useful than a number of sick beggars, but 
even inanimate objects, such as the printing-press or the steam- 
boiler, have undoubtedly been of far more use to the historical 
process as a whole than entire tribes of savages or barbarians. 
And yet if [per impossibile) Gutenberg and Watt had, for the sake 
of their great inventions, intentionally and consciously to sacrifice 
the life even of a single savage or barbarian, the usefulness of their 
work would not prevent their action from being decidedly con- 
demned as immoral — unless indeed the view be taken that the 
purpose justifies the means. 

If the common good' or the general happiness is to have the 
significance of a moral principle, they must be in the full sense 
general, i.e. they must refer not merely to many or to the 
majority of men but to all without exception. That which is 
truly the good of all is for that very reason the good of each — 
no one is excluded and, therefore, in serving such a social good as 
an end, the individual does not thereby become merely a means 
or an instrument of something extraneous and foreign to himself. 
True society which recognises the absolute right of each person 
is not the negative limit but the positive complement of the 
individual. In serving it with whole-hearted devotion, the in- 
dividual does not lose but realises his absolute worth and signifi- 
cance. For when taken in isolation he is only potentially absolute 
and infinite, and becomes so actually only by being inwardly 
united to all.^ 

The only moral norm is the principle of human dignity or of the 
absolute worth of each individual^ in virtue of which society is 
determined as the inward and free harmony of all.^ It is just as im- 
possible that there should be many moral norms in the strict sense 
of the term, as it is impossible that there should be many supreme 
goods or many moralities. It is not difficult to show that religion 
(as concretely given in history), family, and property do not as 
such contain a moral norm in the strict sense of the term. A 

^ See above, Part III., Chapter I., ' The Individual and Society.' 

^ This position is logically established in moral philosophy in its elementary part, 

vrhich, thanks to Kant, became as strictly scientific in its own sphere as pure mechanics 

is in another. 


thing which, taken by itself, may or may not be moral, must 
obviously be determined as one or the other by means of something 
else. It cannot, therefore, be a moral norm on its own account 
— that is, it cannot give to other things a character which 
it itself does not possess. Now there is no doubt that religion 
may or may not be moral. Such religions as, for instance, the cult 
of Moloch or Astarte (the survivals or analogies of which are to 
be met now and then to this day), cannot possibly serve as a moral 
norm of anything, since their very essence is directly opposed to 
all morality. When, therefore, we are told that religion is the 
norm and the moral foundation of society, we must first see 
whether religion itself has a moral character and agrees with the 
principle of morality ; and this means that the ultimate criterion 
is that principle and not religion as such. The only reason why 
we regard Christianity as the true foundation and norm of all that 
is good in the world is that, being a perfect religion, Christianity 
contains the unconditional moral principle in itself. But if a 
separation be introduced between the demand for moral perfection 
and the actual life of Christian society, Christianity at once loses 
its absolute significance and becomes historically accidental. 

If now we take the family, it cannot be denied that the family 
too may or may not be moral, both in individual cases and in the 
whole given structure of society. Thus the family of ancient 
Greece had no moral character. I refer not to the exceptional 
heroic families in which wives murdered their husbands and were 
killed by their sons, or sons killed their fathers and married their 
mothers, but to the usual normal family of a cultured Athenian, 
which required as its necessary complement the institution of 
hetaeras and worse things than that. The Arabic family (before 
Islam), in which new-born girl babies, if there were more than 
one or two of them, were buried alive, had no moral character 
either, though it was stable in its way. The very stable family 
of the Romans in which the head of the house had the right of 
life and death over his wife and children, also cannot be said to 
have been moral. Thus the family, like religion, has no intrinsic- 
ally moral character, and, before it can become the norm for any- 
thing else, must itself be put upon a moral basis. 

As to property, to recognise it as the moral foundation of 
normal society, i.e. as something sacred and inviolable, is neither 


logically nor, in my own case (and I think in that of my con- 
temporaries), psychologically possible. The first awakening of 
conscious life and thought in our generation was accompanied by 
the thunder of the destruction of property in its two fundamental 
historical forms of serfdom and slavery. And this abolition of 
property, both in America and in Russia, was demanded and ac- 
complished in the name of social morality. The alleged inviolability 
was brilliantly disproved by the fact of so successful a violation, 
approved by the conscience of all. It is obvious that property is 
a thing which stands in need of justification, and so far from con- 
taining a moral norm, demands such a norm^r itself. 

All historical institutions — whether religious or social — are of 
a mixed character. But there is no doubt that the moral norm 
can only be found in a pure principle, and not in a mixed feet, 
A principle which unconditionally affirms that which ought to be 
is something essentially inviolable. It may be rejected and 
disobeyed, but this is detrimental not to the principle but to the 
person who rejects and disobeys it. The law which proclaims 
' you ought to respect the human dignity of each person, you ought 
to make no one a means or an instrument,' does not depend upon 
any fact, does not affirm any fact, and therefore cannot be affected 
• by any feet. 

The principle of the absolute worth of human personality 
does not depend upon any one or anything j but the moral char- 
acter of societies and institutions depends entirely upon it. We 
know in ancient and modern heathendom of highly civilised great 
national bodies in which the institutions of femily, of religion, of 
property were extremely stable, but which nevertheless were 
devoid of the moral character of a human society. At best they 
resembled communities of wise insects in which the mechanism 
of the good order is present, but that which the mechanism is 
to subserve — the good itself — is absent, for the bearer of it, the 
free personality, is not there. 


A vague and distorted consciousness of the essence of morality 
and of the true norm of human society exists even where the 
moral principle has apparently no application. Thus, in the 


despotic monarchies of the East, the real man or person was 
rightly regarded as possessed of full rights, but such dignity was 
ascribed to one man only. Thus transformed, however, into an 
exclusive and externally determined privilege, human right and 
worth loses its moral character. The sole bearer of it ceases 
to be a person, and since as a concrete real being it cannot 
become a pure ideal, it becomes an idol. The moral principle 
demands of the individual that he should respect human dignity 
as such — that is, should respect it in other people as in himself. 
It is only in treating others as persons that the individual is 
himself determined as a person. The Eastern despot, however, 
finds in his world no persons possessed of rights, but only rightless 
things. And since it is thus impossible for him to have personal 
moral relations to any one, he inevitably himself loses his personal 
moral character, and becomes a thing — the most important, 
sacred, divine, worshipped thing — in short, a fetish or an idol. 

In the civic communities of the classical world the fulness of 
rights was the privilege not of one man but of a few (in the 
aristocracies) or of many (in the democracies). This extension 
was very important for it rendered possible, though within narrow 
limits only, independent moral interaction of individuals, and 
consequently personal self-consciousness, and realised, at any rate 
for the given social union, the idea of justice or equality of rights.^ 
But the moral principle is in its essence universal, since it 
demands the recognition of the absolute inner worth of man as 
such, without any external limitations. The communities of the 
ancients, however, — the aristocracy of Sparta, the Athenian 
demos, and the peculiar combination of the two — senatus populusque 
Romanus — recognised the true dignity of man only within the 
Umits of their civic union. They were not therefore societies 
based upon the moral principle, but at best approached and 
anticipated such a society. 

This structure of lire has more than merely a historical 
interest for us : in truth, we have not outlived it yet. Consider, 
indeed, what it was that limited the moral principle and prevented 

1 In the despotic monarchies of the East there could be no question of any equality 
of rights— there was only the negative equality of general rightlessness. But equal 
distribution of an injustice does not render it just. The idea of equality taken in the 
abstract is mathematical only, not ethical. 


its realisation in the world of antiquity. There were three 
classes of men who were not recognised as bearers of any rights or 
as objects of any duties. They were therefore in no sense an end 
of action, were not included in the idea of the common good at all, 
and were regarded merely as material instruments of, or material 
obstacles to, that good. Namely, these were (i) enemies, i.e. 
originally all strangers,^ then (2) slaves, and, finally, (3) criminals. 
In spite of individual differences the legalised relation to these 
three categories of men was essentially the same, for it was 
equally immoral. There is no need to represent the institution 
of slavery, which replaced the simple slaughter of the prisoners of 
war, in an exaggeratedly horrible form. Slaves had means of 
livelihood secured to them, and on the whole were not badly 
treated. This, however, was an accident — though one of frequent 
occurrence — and not a duty, and, therefore, had no moral signi- 
ficance. Slaves were valued for their utility, but this had nothing 
to do with the recognition of their worth as human beings. In 
contradistinction to these useful things, which ought to be looked 
after for reasons of expediency, external and internal enemies, as 
things unquestionably harmful, were to be mercilessly extermin- 
ated. With regard, however, to the enemy in war, mercilessness 
might be tempered by the respect for his force or the fear of 
revenge ; but with regard to defenceless criminals, real or 
supposed, cruelty knew no limits. In cultured Athens, persons 
accused of ordinary crimes were tortured as soon as they were 
taken into custody, previously to any trial. 

All these facts — war, slavery, executions — were legitimate for 
the ancient world, in the sense that they logically followed from 

^ Hospitality to peaceful strangers is a fact of very ancient date, but can hardly be 
said to be primitive. In Greece its founder was supposed to be Zeus — the repre- 
sentative of the third generation of gods (after Chronos and Uranua). • Before being a 
guest in the sense of simply a friendly visitor, the stranger was a ' guest ' in the sense of 
'merchant,' and earlier still he was only regarded in the sense of the Latin hntis 
(enemy). In times still more ancient, accounts of which have been handed down in 
classical tradition, a good guest was met with still greater joy than in the later, 
hospitable times, but only as a savoury dish at the family feast. Apart from such 
extremes, the prevalent attitude to strangers in primitive society was no doubt 
similar to that observed by Sir John Lubboclc among ants. When a stranger ant 
belonging to a different community, though one of the same species, came to an 
ant heap, ants would drag it about for a while by its antennae till it was half-dead, and 
then either finish it off or drive it away. 


the view held by every one, and were conditioned by the general 
level of consciousness. If the worth of man as an independent 
individual and the fulness of his rights and dignity depend 
exclusively upon his belonging to a certain civic union, the 
natural consequence is that men who do not belong to that union 
and are strange and hostile to it, or men who, though they belong 
to it, violate its laws and are a menace to common safety, are by 
that very fact deprived of human rights and dignity, and that 
with regard to them all things are lawful. 

This point of view, however, came to be changed. The 
development of ethical thought first among the Sophists and in 
Socrates, then among the Greco- Roman Stoics, the work of Roman 
lawyers and the very character of the Roman Empire, which 
embraced many peoples and nations, and therefore inevitably 
widened the theoretical and practical outlook, — all this has 
gradually eiFaced the old limits and established a consciousness of 
the moral principle in its formal universality and infinity. At the 
same time, in the East the rehgiously moral teaching of the Jewish 
prophets was evolving a living ideal of absolute human dignity. 
And while a Roman in the theatre of the eternal city proclaimed, 
by the mouth of the actor, the new word ' homo sum ' as the 
expression of the highest personal dignity, instead of the old 
^civis Romanusj' another Roman in a remote Eastern province 
and at a scene more tragic completed the statement of this new 
principle by simply pointing to the actual personal incarnation of 
it : Ecce homo! 

The inner change which took place in humanity as the result 
of the interaction of the events in Palestine and the Greco- 
Roman theories ought, it would seem, to have been the beginning 
of an entirely new order of things. Indeed, a complete regenera- 
tion of the physical world was expected ; and yet the social and 
moral world of heathendom still stands essentially unchanged. 
This will not be an object for grief and wonder if the problem of 
the moral regeneration of humanity is considered in its full 
scope. It is clear from the nature of the case, and is foretold in 
the Gospels,^ that this problem can only be solved by a gradual 
process before the final catastrophe comes. The process of such 
preparation is not yet completed, but is being carried on, and 

1 In the parables of the leavea, of wheat and tares, of the mustard seed, etc. 


there is no doubt that from the fifteenth and especially from 
the end of the eighteenth century there has been a noticeable 
change in the rate of the historical progress. It is important 
from the practically moral point of view to make clear to ourselves 
wrhat has been done already and w^hat still remains to be done in 
certain definite directions. 


When men of different nationality and social position were 
spiritually united in worshipping a foreigner and a beggar — the 
Galilean who was executed as a criminal in the name of national 
and class interests — international wars, rightlessness of the masses, 
and executions of criminals were inwardly undermined. Granted 
that the inner change took eighteen centuries to manifest itself 
even to a small extent ; granted that its manifestation is becoming 
noticeable just at the time when its first mover — the Christian 
faith — is weakened, and seems to disappear from the surfece of 
consciousness — still, man's inner attitude towards the old heathen 
foundations of society is changing, and the change shows itself 
more and more in his life. Whatever the thoughts of individual 
men may be, advanced humanity as a collective whole has 
reached a degree of moral maturity, a state of feeling and 
consciousness, which is beginning to make impossible for it things 
which to the ancient world were natural. And even individual 
men, if they have not renounced reason altogether, hold, in the 
form of rational conviction if not in the form of religious faith, 
the moral principle which does not permit the legalisation of 
collective crimes. The very fact of the remotest parts of 
humanity coming into contact, of getting to know one another 
and becoming mutually connected, does much to abolish the 
barriers and estrangement between men, natural from the narrow 
point of view of the ancients, for whom the Straits of Gibraltar 
were the extreme limit of the universe, and the banks of the 
Dnieper or the Don were populated by men with dogs' heads. 

International wars are not yet abolished, but the point of view 
with regard to them has changed in a striking degree, especially 
of late. They^tfr of war has become the predominant motive of 
international policy, and no Government would venture to confess 


to harbouring plans of conquest. Slavery in the proper sense has 
been finally and wholly abolished. Other crude forms of personal 
dependence which survived till the last century, and, in places, till 
the middle of the present, have also been done away with. What 
remains is only the indirect economic slavery, but this too is a 
question whose turn has come. Finally, the point of view with 
regard to criminals has since the eighteenth century been clearly 
tending to become more moral and Christian. And to think 
that this progress — belated, but quick and decisive — along the 
path mapped out nineteen centuries ago, should cause anxiety 
for the moral foundations of society ! In truth, a false conception 
of these foundations is the chief obstacle to a thorough moral 
change in the social life and consciousness. Religion, femily, 
property cannot as such, that is, simply as existent facts, be the 
norm or the moral foundation of society. The problem is not 
to preserve these institutions at any cost in statu quo but to 
make them conformable to the one and only moral standard, so 
that they might be wholly permeated by the one moral principle. 
This principle is essentially universal, the same for all. 
Now, religion as such need not be universal, and all religions 
of antiquity were strictly national. Christianity, however, being 
the embodiment of the absolute moral ideal, is as universal as 
the moral principle itself, and at the beginning it had this 
character. But historical institutions, which in the course of 
history came to be connected with it, ceased to be universal 
and therefore lost their pure and all-embracing moral character^ 
And so long as we affirm our religion, first, in its denominational 
peculiarity, and then only as universal Christianity, we deprive it 
both of a sound logical basis and of moral significance, and make 
it an obstacle in the way of the spiritual regeneration of humanity. 
Further, universality expresses itself not only by the absence of 
external, national, denominational and other limitations, but still 
more by freedom from inner limitations. To be truly universal, 
religion must not separate itself from intellectual enlightenment, 
from science, from social and political progress. A religion 
which fears all these things has obviously no faith in its own 
power and is inwardly permeated with unbelief While claiming 
to be the sole moral norm of society, it fails to fulfil the most 
elementary moral condition of being genuine. 


The positive significance of the family^ in virtue of which it 
may, in a sense, be the moral norm of society, is apparent from 
the following consideration. It is physically impossible for a 
single individual concretely to realise in his everyday life his moral 
relation to all. However sincerely a man may recognise the 
absolute demands of the moral ideal, he cannot, in real life, 
apply these demands to all human beings, for the simple reason 
that the 'all' do not concretely exist for him. He cannot 
give practical proof of his respect for the human dignity of the 
millions of men about whom he knows nothing ; he cannot 
make them in concreto the positive end of his activity. And 
yet, unless the moral demand is completely realised in perceptible 
personal relations, it remains an abstract principle which 
enlightens the mind, but does not regenerate the life pf man. 
The solution of this contrasdiction is that moral relations ought 
to be fully realised within a certain limited environment in 
which each man is placed in his concrete everyday existence. 
This is precisely the true function of the family. Each member 
of it is not only intended and meant to be, but actually is, an 
end for all the others ; each is perceptibly recognised to have 
absolute significance, each is irreplaceable. From this point of 
view the family is the pattern and the elementary constitutive cell 
of universal brotherhood or of human society as it ought to be. 
But in order to preserve such a significance, the family obviously 
must not become the embodiment of mutual egoism. It must 
be the first stage from which each of its members may be always 
able to ascend, as much as in him lies, to a greater realisation of 
the moral principle in the world. The family is either the crown- 
ing stage of eg(^sm or the beginning of world-wide union. To 
uphold it in the first sense does not mean to uphold a 'moral 
foundation ' of society. 

Property as such has no moral significance. No one is 
morally bound either to be rich or to enrich other people. 
General equality of property is as impossible and unnecessary 
as sameness in the colouring or in the quantity of hair. There 
is one condition, however, which renders the question as to 
the distribution of property a moral question. It is inconsistent 
with human dignity and with the moral norm of society that 
a person should be unable to support his existence, or, that in 


order to do so he should spend so much time and strength as 
to have none left for looking after his human, intellectual and 
moral improvement. In that case man ceases to be an end for 
himself and for others, and becomes merely a material instrument 
of economic production, on a level with soulless machines. 
And since the moral principle unconditionally demands that we 
should respect the human dignity of all and each, and regard 
every one as an end in himself and not only as a means, a society 
that desires to be morally normal cannot remain indifferent to 
such a position of any one of its members. It is its direct duty 
to secure to each and all a certain minimum of well-being, just 
as much as is necessary to support a worthy human existence. 
The way to attain this is a problem for economics and not 
for ethics. In any case it nought to be, and therefore it can 
be, done. 

All human society, and especially society that professes to 
be Christian, must, if it is to go on existing and to attain to a 
higher dignity, conform to the moral standard. What matters is 
not the external preservation of certain institutions, which may 
be good or bad, but a sincere and consistent striving inwardly to 
improve all institutions and social relations which may be good, 
by subordinating them more and more to the one unconditional 
moral ideal of tht free union of all in the perfect good. 

Christianity put forward this ideal as a practical task for 
all peoples and nations, answered for its being realisable — given 
a good will on our part — and promised help from above in the 
execution of it — help, of which there is sufficient evidence both 
in personal and in historical experience. But just because 
the task Christianity sets before us is a moral and therefore a 
free one, the supreme Good cannot help man by thwarting the 
evil will or externally removing the obstacles which that will 
puts in the way of the realisation of the kingdom of God. 
Humanity as represented by individuds and nations must itself 
outlive and overcome these obstacles, which are to be found both 
in the individual evil will and in the complex effects of the 
collective evil will. This is the reason why progress in the 
Christian world is so slow, and why Christianity appears to be 
lifeless and inactive. 



The work of embodying perfect morality in the collective 
whole of mankind is hindered, in addition to individual passions 
and vices, by the inveterate forms of collective evil which act 
like a contagion. In spite of the slow but sure progress in the 
life of humanity, that evil shows itself now, as it did of old, in 
a threefold hostility, a threefold immoral relation — between 
different nations, between society and the criminal, between 
the different classes of society. Listen to the way in which the 
French speak of the Germans, the Portuguese of the Dutch, 
the Chinese of the English, and Americans of the Chinese. 
Consider the thoughts and feelings of the audience at a criminal 
trial, the behaviour of a crowd using lynch law in America, 
or settling accounts with a witch or a horse-stealer in Russia. 
Hear or read the remarks exchanged between socialist workmen 
and representatives of the propertied classes at meetings, and in 
the newspapers. It will then become evident that apart from 
the anomalies of the personal will we must also take into account 
the power of the superpersonal or collective hostility in its three 
aspects. The national, the penal and the socially economic 
questions have, independently of all considerations of internal and 
external policy, a special interest for the moral consciousness. 
To deal with them from this point of view is all the more 
essential, because a new and worse evil has been added of late to 
the calamity of the hereditary disease — namely, the rash attempt 
to cure it by preaching new forms of social violence on the one 
hand, and a passive disintegration of humanity into its individual 
units on the other. 




Man's relation to nationality is in our day generally determined 
in two ways : as nationalistic or as cosmopolitan. There may be 
many shades and transition stages in the domain of feeling and of 
taste, but there are only two clear and definite points of view. 
The first may be formulated as follows : IVe must love our own 
nation and serve it by all the means at our command, and to other 
nations we may be indifferent. If their interests conflict with ours, 
•we must take up a hostile attitude to the foreign nations. The essence 
of the cosmopolitan view is this ; Nationality is merely a natural 
fact, devoid of all moral significance ; we have no duties to the nation 
as such {^neither to our own nor to any other) ; our duty is only to 
individual men without any distinction of nationality. 

It is at once apparent that neither view expresses the right 
attitude towards the fact of national difFerence. The first ascribes 
to this fact an absolute significance which it cannot possess, and 
the second deprives it of all significance. It will be easily seen 
also that each view finds its justification solely in the negative 
aspect of the opposite view. 

No rational believer in cosmopolitanism would, of course, find 
fault with the adherents of nationalism for loving their own 
country. He would only blame them for thinking that it is 
permissible, and in some cases even obligatory, to hate and despise 
men of a different race and nationality. In the same way the 
most ardent nationalist will not, unless he is altogether devoid of 
reason, attack the champions of cosmopolitanism for demanding 
justice for other nations, but will accuse them of being indifferent 
to their own. So that in each of these views even its direct 
opponents cannot help distinguishing the good side from the bad, 
and the question naturally arises whether these two sides are 
necessarily connected. Does love for one's own people necessarily 
imply the view that all means of serving it are permissible, and 
justify an indifferent and hostile relation to other nations ? Does 
the same moral relation to all human beings necessarily mean 
indifference to nationality in general, and to one's own in 
particular ? 

The first question is easily solved by analysing the content of 


the idea of true patriotism or love for one's country. The 
necessity for such an elementary analysis will be recognised by 
every one. For every one w^ill agree that patriotism may be 
irrational, do harm instead of the intended good, and lead nations 
to disaster ; that patriotism may be vain, and based on unfounded 
pretensions ; and, finally, that it may be directly ^Zr^, and serve 
merely as a cloak for low and selfish motives. In what, then, 
does true or real patriotism consist ? 

When we really love some one, we wish and strive to obtain 
for them both moral and material good, — the latter, however, 
only on condition of the former. To every one whom I love 
I wish, among other things, material prosperity, provided, of 
course, that it is attained by honourable means and made good 
use of. But if, when my friend is in need, I were to assist him 
in making his fortune by fraud, even supposing that he would 
be certain to escape punishment — or, if he were a writer, and I 
advised him to increase his literary fame by a successful plagiarism, 
I should be rightly considered by every one to be either a madman 
or a scoundrel, and certainly not a good friend. 

It is clear then that the goods which love leads us to desire for 
our neighbours differ both in their external character and in their 
inner meaning for the will. Spiritual goods exclude, by the very 
conception of them, the possibility of being attained by bad 
means ; one cannot steal moral dignity, or plunder justice, or 
appropriate benevolence. These goods are unconditionally desirable. 
Material goods, which, from the nature of the case, admit of bad 
means, are on the contrary desirable on condition that such means 
are not used, i.e. on condition that material ends are subordinate 
to the moral end. 

Up to a certain point every one will agree with this element- 
ary truth. Every one would grant that it is wrong to enrich 
oneself at the cost of a crime, or to enrich a friend, one's own or 
his family, or even one's town or province at the cost of a crime. 
But this elementary moral truth which is as clear as day suddenly 
becomes dim and dtogether obscure as soon as we get to one's 
country. Everything becomes permissible in the service of its 
supposed interests, the purpose justifies the means, the black 
becomes white, falsehood is preferred to truth, violence is extolled 
as a virtue. Nationality here becomes the final end, the highest 


good and the standard of good for human activity. Such undue 
glorification is, however, purely illusory, and is in truth degrading 
to the nation. The highest human goods cannot, as we have 
seen, be attained by immoral means. By admitting bad means 
into our service of the nation and hy justifying them we limit the 
national interest to the lower material goods which may be 
obtained and preserved by wrong and evil methods. This is a 
direct injury to the very nation we wish to serve. It means 
transferring the centre of gravity of the national life from the 
higher sphere to the lower, and serving national egoism undei 
the guise of serving the nation. The moral worthlessness of such 
nationalism is proved by history itself. There is abundant 
evidence that nations prospered and were great only so long as 
they did not make themselves their final end, but served the 
higher, the universal ideal ends. History shows also that the 
very conception of the nation as a final and ultimate bearer of 
the collective life of humanity is ill-founded. 


The division of humanity into definite and stable groups 
possessing a national character is a fact which is neither universal 
nor first in the order of time. Not to speak of savages and 
barbarians, who are still living in separate families, clans or 
nomadic bands, division into nations did not exclusively pre- 
dominate even in the civilised part of humanity when the tribe 
was finally superseded by the ' city ' or ' country.' The country 
and the nation, though more or less closely associated, do not alto- 
gether coincide. In the ancient world we find hardly any clear 
division into nations at all. We find either independent civic com- 
munities, i.e. groups smaller than the nation and united politically 
only and not by the bond of nationality— such as the cities of 
Phoenicia, Greece and Italy — or, on the contrary, groups larger 
than the nation — the so-called ' world empires ' which included 
many peoples, from the Assyro-Babylonic down to the Roman. 
In these crude precursors of the universal unity of mankind 
national considerations had merely a material significance and 
were not the determining factor. The idea of nationality 
as the supreme principle of life found neither the time nor 


the place for its application in the ancient world. The 
opposition between one's own people and aliens was then 
far more sharp and ruthless than it is now, but it was 
not determined by nationality. In the kingdom of Darius and 
Xerxes men of different race and nationality were all regarded as 
members of one body, since they were equally subject to one 
common authority and one supreme law. Enemies or aliens were 
the men who were not yet brought under the rule of ' the great 
king.' On the other hand, in Greece, the fact that Spartans and 
Athenians spoke the same language, had the same gods and realised 
that they belonged to the same nation, did not prevent them from 
treating' each other as foreigners throughout their history, or even 
from being mortal enemies. Similar relations held between other 
cities or civic communities of Greece, and only once in a thousand 
years did the true national or pan-Greek patriotism actively show 
itself, namely, during the Persian war. The coincidence — and that 
only an approximate one — between practical solidarity and national 
character hardly lasted for forty years, and was superseded by a 
fierce and prolonged slaughter of the Greeks by the Greeks during 
the Peloponnesian war. This state of deadly struggle between 
small communities belonging to one and the same nation was con- 
sidered perfectly normal and continued up to the moment when 
all these communities together lost their independence. They 
lost it not in order to form a national unity, but in order that the 
Greek nation might, under the power of foreign kings, immediately 
pass from its state of political disruption to becoming the uniting 
and civilising element in the whole of the ancient world. The 
opposition between fellow-citizens and aliens {i.e. inhabitants of 
another city, though a Greek one) had now lost its meaning as a 
supreme political principle, and was not replaced by the opposition 
between their own and other nations. What remained was the 
wider opposition Between Hellenism and barbarism, meaning by 
the former participation in the higher intellectual and aesthetic 
culture, and not necessarily the feet of being a Greek by birth, or of 
using the Greek language. Not even the most arrogant of Greeks 
ever regarded Horaceand Vergil, Augustus or Maecenas as barbarians. 
Indeed the founders of the Hellenic ' world empire ' themselves — 
the Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander, were not Greeks 
in the ethnographical sense. And it was owing to these two 


foreigners that Greeks immediately passed from the narrow local 
patriotism of separate civic communities to the consciousness of 
themselves as bearers of a world-wride culture, w^ithout ever return- 
ing to the stage of the national patriotism of the Persian wars. 
As to Rome, the whole of Roman history was a continuous 
transition from the policy of a city to the policy of a world 
Empire — ab urbe ad orbem — without pausing at a purely national 
stage. When Rome was defending herself against the Punic 
invasion, she was merely the most powerful of the Italian cities. 
When she crushed her enemy, she imperceptibly overstepped the 
ethnographical and the geographical boundaries of Latinism and 
became conscious of herself as a moving force in the world-history, 
anticipating by two centuries the poet's reminder — 

But, Rome, 'tis thine alone, with awful sway. 
To rule mankind and make the world obey. 
Disposing peace and war thy own majestic way, 
To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free. 

Roman citizenship soon became accessible to all, and the formula 
' Rome for the Romans ' appealed to no one on the banks of the 
Tiber : Rome was for the world. 

While Alexanders and Casars were politically abolishing in 
East and West the vague limits of nationality, cosmopolitanism as 
a philosophical doctrine was developed and disseminated by the 
representatives of the two most popular schools of thought — the 
wandering Cynics and the dispassionate Stoics. They preached 
the supremacy of nature and reason, the unity underlying all 
existence and the insignificance of all artificial and historical 
limitations and divisions. They taught that man by his very 
nature and therefore every man had a supreme destination and 
dignity, consisting in freedom from external affections, errors and 
passions, in the steadfast courage of the man who " if the whole 
world were dashed to fragments, would remain serene among the 
ruins. " ^ Hence they inevitably recognised all the externally given 
determinations, social, national, etc., as conventional and illusory. 
Roman jurisprudence,^, in its own sphere and from its own point 

' Si Iractus illabatur orbis 
Impavidum ferient ruinae. 

" For confirmation of these statements see last chapter of Part I. o{ Natsimalny 
Vofros {The national question), by the present author. 


of view, also supported the philosophical ideas of natural and 
therefore universal reason, of virtue wrhich is the same for all, and 
of the equality of human rights. As a result of this collective 
intellectual wrork the conception 'Roman' became identical 
writh the conception of ' universal,' both in its external range of 
application and in its inner content.^ 


At the beginning of the Christian era the Jewish people were 
the only one within the civilised world of antiquity who had a 
strong national consciousness. But in their case it was intimately 
associated with their religion, with the true feeling of its inner 
superiority and a presentiment of world-wide historical destiny. 
The national consciousness of the Jews had no real satis- 
faction ; it lived by hopes and expectations. The short-lived 
greatness of David and Solomon was idealised and transformed 
into a golden age. But the vital historical instinct of the people 
who were the first to evolve a philosophy of history (in the book 
of Daniel on the world empires and on the kingdom of truth of 
the Son of man) did not allow them to stop at the glorified image 
of the past and made them transfer their ideal into the future. This 
ideal, however, had from the first certain features of universal 
significance, and when, by the inspiration of the prophets, it was 
transferred to the future it became finally free from all narrow 
nationalistic limitations. Isaiah proclaimed the Christ as the 
banner that is to gather all nations round Himself, and the author 
of the book of Daniel entirely adopted the point of view oi universal 

This universalistic conception of the Messiah, expressing the 
true national self-consciousness of the Jews as the finest ideal 
flower of the spirit of the people, was held only by the elect few. 
When the banner for all the peoples was, as foretold by the 
prophets, raised in Jerusalem and Galilee, the majority of the Jews 
with their official leaders (the Sadducees), and partly with their 
unofficial teachers (the Pharisees), proved to be on the side of the 

' Although the Stoic philosophy originated in Greece, independently of Rome, it 
developed only in the Roman era, was particularly prevalent among the Romans, and 
manifested its practical influence chiefly through Roman lawyers. 


national and religious exclusiveness as against the highest realisation 
of the prophetic ideal. The inevitable conflict and breach between 
these two tendencies — these 'two souls,' ^ as it were — of the 
Jewish people suiSciently explains (from the purely historical point 
of view) the great tragedy of Golgotha, with which Christianity 

It would, however, be an obvious mistake to associate 
Christianity with the principle of cosmopolitanism. There was 
no occasion for the Apostles to preach against nationality. The 
dangerous and immoral aspect of national divisions, namely, mutual 
hatred and malignant struggle, no longer existed within the limits 
of the ' universe ' ^ of that day ; Roman peace — pax Romano — had 
abolished wars between nations. Christian universalism was 
directed against other and more profound divisions, which remained 
in full force in practical life in spite of the ideas of the prophets, 
the philosophers, and the jurists. There remained the distinction 
of religion between Judaism and paganism, the distinction of 
culture between Hellenism (which included educated Romans) 
and barbarism, and, finally, the worst distinction — the socially- 
economic one — between freemen and slaves. It had retained all 
its force in practice, in spite of the theoretical protests of the Stoics. 
These divisions were in direct opposition to the moral principle — 
which was not the case with the national distinctions of that time. 
The latter had in the Roman Empire as innocent a character as, 
for instance, the provincialism of Gascogne or Brittany has in 
modern France. But the opposition between the Jews and the 
Gentiles, the Hellenes and the barbarians, freemen and slaves, 
involved the denial of all solidarity between them ; it was an opposi- 
tion of the higher beings to the lower, the lower having their moral 
dignity and human rights denied to them.* This is the reason why 
St. Paul had to proclaim that in Jesus Christ there is neither Jew 

' Two souls live in ray breast, 
They struggle, and long to be parted. 


" That the best among the Pharisees took no part in the persecution of Jesus Christ, 
and were favourable to primitive Christianity, is shown in Professor Hvolson's excellent 
article in the Memuari Akadmii Nauk (proceedings of the Academy of Sciences), 1893. 

' OlKo/ihri {i.e. yij), the Greek name for the Roman Empire. 

* In speaking of the opposition between Judaism and paganism, I am referring, of 
course, not to the teaching of Moses and the prophets and sages — they all recognised in 
principle that the pagans had human rights — but to the spirit of the crowd and its leaders 


nor Greek, nei ther bond nor free, but a new creation — a new creation, 
however, and not simple reduction of the old to one denominator. 
In the place of the negative ideal of the dispassionate Stoic un- 
moved by the downfall of the world, the Apostle puts the positive 
ideal of a man full of compassion and at one with all that lives, 
who shares in the suiFerings of the universal man, Christ, and in 
His death that redeems the world, and therefore participates in 
His triumph over death and in the salvation of the whole world. 
In Christianity the mind passes from the abstract man in general 
of the philosophers and jurists to the concrete universal man. 
The old hostility and estrangement between different sections of 
humanity is thereby completely abolished. Every man, if only 
he lets ' Christ be formed in him,' ^ i.e. if he enters into the spirit 
of the perfect man, and determines all his life and activity by the 
ideal revealed in the image of Christ, participates in the Godhead 
through the power of the Son of God abiding in him. For the 
regenerated man individuality, like all other characteristics and 
distinctions, including that of nationality, ceases to be a limit^ and 
becomes the basis of positive union with the collective all- 
embracing humanity or Church (in its true nature), which is 
complementary to him. According to the well-known saying 
of St. Paul the peculiarities of structure and of function which 
distinguish a given bodily organ from other organs do not separate 
it from them and from the rest of the body, but on the contrary 
are the basis of its definite positive participation in the life of the 
organism, and make it of unique value to all the other organs 
and the body as a whole. Likewise in the ' body of Christ ' in- 
dividual peculiarities do not separate one person from others, but 
unite each with all, being the ground of his special significance 
for all and of his positive interaction with them. Now this ob- 
viously applies to nationality as well. The all-embracing humanity 
(or the Church which the Apostle preached) is not an abstract idea, 
but is a harmonious union of all the concrete positive characteristics 
of the new or the regenerated creation. It therefore includes the 
national as well as the personal characteristics. The body of 
Christ is a perfect organism and cannot consist of simple cells 
alone ; it must contain larger and more complex organs, which 
in this connection are naturally represented by the different nations. 

^ St, Paul's expreasion. 


The difference between the personal and the national character 
is not one of principle ^ but of greater stability and wider range in 
the case of the latter. Since Christianity does not demand absence 
of individual character, it cannot demand absence of national char- 
acter. The spiritual regeneration it demands both of individuals 
and of nations does not mean a loss of the natural qualities and 
powers ; it means that these qualities are transformed, that a new 
direction and a new content are given them. When Peter and John 
were regenerated by the spirit of Christ, they did not lose any of 
their positive peculiarities and distinct characteristic features. So 
far from losing their individuality, they developed and strengthened 
it. This is how it must be with entire nations converted to 

Actual adoption of the true religion containing the uncondi- 
tional principle of morality must sweep away a great deal from the 
national as well as from the individual life. But that which is in- 
compatible with the unconditional principle and has therefore to be 
destroyed does not constitute a positive characteristic or peculiarity. 
There is such a thing as collective evil will, as historical sin 
burdening the national conscience, as a wrong direction of the life 
and activity of a nation. From all these wrongs a nation must set 
itself free, but such freedom can only strengthen it, and increase 
and widen the expression of its positive character. 

The first preachers of the Gospel had no reason to occupy 
themselves with the national question which the life of humanity 
had not yet brought to the fore, since there were hardly any 
distinct, independent nations conscious of themselves as such on 
the historical arena of the time. Nevertheless we find in the New 

^ This is brought out by the fact that the only rational way of accounting for the 
genesis of a stable national character, such as the Jewish — which is not affected by the 
external influences of climate, history, etc., is to suppose that it is the inherited, personal 
character of the national ancestor. The inner truth of the Biblical characteristic of 

Jacob the ancestor of the Jews — and also of Ishmail, the ancestor of the Northern 

Arabs, will be recognised by any impartial reader, whatever his attitude to the historical 
side of the narrative may be. Even granting that the man named Jacob, who did all 
that in the book of Genesis he is said to have done, never existed at all, anyway the 
Tews, or at any rate the chief tribe of Judah, must have had a common progenitor ; and 
starting with the national character of the Jews we must conclude that that progenitor 
had precisely the typical peculiarities which the Bible ascribes to Jacob. See S. M. 
Solovyov's Nahhdeniya nod istoricSeskoiu ahlxnyu narodov {Observations on the historical 
life of nations), and also my Filosofia Bihleiskoi Istorii {The Philosophy of the Biblical 
History) in the Istoria Teokratii {History of Theocracy). 


Testament definite indications of a positive attitude to nationality. 
The words spoken to the Samaritan woman, ^'■salvation is of the 
Jews" 1 and the preliminary direction to the disciples, " go rather 
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," ^ clearly show Christ's 
love for His own people. And His final command to the Apostles, 
" Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" ^ implies that even out- 
side Israel He contemplated not separate individuals only, but 
entire peoples.* When St. Paul became the Apostle of the Gentiles 
he did not thereupon become a cosmopolitan. Though separated 
from the majority of his compatriots in the all-important question 
of religion, he was not indifferent to his people and their special 
destination : 

" I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing 
me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and 
continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself 
were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according 
to the flesh : who are Israelites ; to whom pertaineth the adoption, 
and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and 
the service of God, and the promises ; whose are the fathers, and of 
whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. . . . Brethren, my 
heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be 
saved." ^ 


Before they could reaUse the ideal of universal humanity, 
nations had first to be formed as distinct independent bodies. 
Let us consider this process with special reference to Western 
Europe, where it is finally completed. The Apostles' successors, to 
whom the command to teach all nations was handed down, soon 
came to deal with nations in their infancy, standing in need of 
elementary upbringing before they could be taught. The Church 
nurtured them conscientiously and with self-sacrificing devotion, 

1 St. John iv. 22. ^ St. Matthew x. 6. ^ gt. Matthew xxviii. 19. 

* The words in the Acts of the Apostles (i. 8), " Ve shall be witnesses unto me both 
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the 
earth," show still more clearly that the Saviour of the world recognised a definite, local 
and national starting-point for His world-wide worlc. 

" Romans ix. 1-5, x. i. 


and then continued to act as their guardian, making them pass 
through a school that was somewhat one-sided though not bad. 
The historical childhood and youth of the Romano-Germanic 
nations under the guardianship of the Roman Catholic Church— 
the so-called Middle Ages-— did not end in anything like a normal 
way. The spiritual authorities failed to observe that their 
nurslings had come of age, and, from natural human weakness, 
insisted on treating them in the same old way. The anomalies 
and changes that arose from this fact have no bearing on our 
subject. What is of importance to us is the phenomenon which 
took place in the development of every European nation. It un- 
doubtedly indicates a certain general ethico-historical law, for it 
was manifested under the most various and often directly opposed 

For reasons sufficiently obvious Italy was the first of European 
countries to attain to national self-consciousness. The Lombard 
League in the middle of the twelfth century clearly indicates 
national awakening. The external struggle, however, was only an 
impetus that called to life the true forces of the Italian genius. At 
the beginning of the next century the newly-born Italian language 
was used by St. Francis to express ideas and feelings of universal 
significance that could be understood by Buddhists and Christians 
alike. At the same period began Italian painting (Cimabue), 
and at the beginning of the fourteenth century appeared Dante's 
comprehensive poem, which would alone have been sufficient 
to make Italy great. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth 
centuries Italy, torn asunder by the hostilities between the cities 
and the podestas, the Pope and the Emperor, the French and 
the Spanish, produced all for which humanity loves and values 
her, all, of which Italians may justly pride themselves. All these 
immortal works of the philosophical and scientific, poetical and 
artistic genius had the same value for other nations, for the world 
as a whole as for the Italians themselves. Men to whom Italy's 
true greatness was due were no doubt real patriots. They set 
the greatest value upon their country, but it was not in their case 
an empty claim leading to false and immoral demands — they em- 
bodied the lofty significance of Italy in works of absolute value. 
They did not consider it true and beautiful to affirm themselves 
and their nationality, but they directly affirmed themselves in 


what is true and beautiful. Their works were good not because 
they glorified Italy, but rather they glorified Italy because they 
were good in themselves — good j^r all. Under such conditions 
patriotism stands in no need of defence and justification. It 
justifies itself in practice, evincing itself as creative power and 
not as fruitless reflection or * excitement of idle thought.' Cor- 
responding to the inner intensity of the creative work at this 
blossoming time of Italy was the wide extension of the Italian 
race at that period. Its civilising influence extended to the 
Crimea in the East and Scotland in the North- West. The first 
European to penetrate to Mongolia and China was Marco Polo, an 
Italian. Another Italian discovered the new world, and the third, 
enlarging that discovery, left it his name. The literary influence 
of Italy was for several centuries prevalent throughout Europe. 
Italian poetry, epic and lyric, and the Italian novel were examples 
for imitation. Shakespeare took from the Italians the subjects 
and the form of his plays. The ideas of Giordano Bruno roused 
philosophical reflection both in England and in Germany. The 
Italian language and Italian fashions universally prevailed in the 
higher classes of society. And while the national creative work and 
influence were at their highest, Italians were obviously concerned 
not with keeping Italy for themselves — at that time indeed it 
was for any one who liked to take it — but only with things which 
made them be something for others and gave them a universal 
significance. They cared for the objective ideas of beauty and 
truth, which through their national spirit received a new and 
worthy expression. What conception of nationality can be 
logically deduced from this ? It cannot be said, with Italy's 
national history before us, that nationality is something self- 
existent and self-contained, living in itself and for itself, for this 
great nation proves to be simply a special form of universal 
content, living in that content, filled with it and embodying it 
not for itself only but for all. 

The Spanish nation developed under very peculiar conditions. 
For seven centuries Spain was the vanguard on the right flank of 
the Christian world in its struggle with Mohammedanism. And 
just when the left flank — Byzantium — was overthrown by the 
enemy, on the right flank Spaniards won a final and decisive 
victory. This long and successful struggle was justly regarded as 


the national glory of Spain. It is not permissible for a Christian 
people to hate and despise Mohammedans — or any one else — or 
seek to exterminate them ; but to defend Europe against invasion 
by them was a direct Christian duty. For in so fer as Christianity, 
in spite of all its historical perversions, contains absolute truth, to 
which the future belongs, in so far the defence even of the external 
boundaries of Christian faith and culture against the destructive 
violence of the armed hordes of unbelievers is an unquestionable 
merit from the point of view of humanity. Apart from the 
question of religious belief, would it have been a gain for historical 
progress had Western Europe met with the fate of Western 
Asia or of the Balkan Peninsula ? ^ In defending themselves 
against the Moors the Spaniards were serving the common cause 
of humanity, and they knew it. They would not dream of 
saying 'Spain is for the Spaniards,' for in that case why should 
they not go further and say ' Castile is for the Castilians, 
Arragon is for the Arragonians,' etc. ? They felt, they thought, 
and they proclaimed that Spain was for all Christendom, as 
Christianity was for all the world. Their feeling was perfectly 
genuine, they really wished to serve their religion as a universal 
religion, as the highest good for all, and one can only reproach 
them with having a wrong or a one - sided conception of 
Christianity. The continuous struggle for a common and 
just cause lasted for seven centuries, and, being chiefly an 
external struggle waged by the force of arms,^ it created both 

' At oae time the Moorish culture in Spain was not inferior, and in some respects 
it was superior to the Christian culture of the period. But history clearly proves how 
short-lived all Mohammedan culture is. The end with which it met in the Middle 
Ages in Damascus, Bagdad and Cairo would no doubt have been repeated once 
more in the West. There too it would have been replaced by stable barbarism, such 
as the Turkish. And if the Bashi-Bazouics were to overrun London, and Saxony were 
to be constantly raided by the Kurds, what would become of the British Museum and the 
Leipzig Press? This is an argument ad homines. But speaking quite seriously and 
wholly admitting the comparative merits of Mohammedanism and the historical tasks 
it still has to accomplish in Asia and Africa, it must be remembered that this religion 
professedly renounces the absolute moral ideal, i.e. the principle of the perfect mani- 
festation of God in man, and has no right therefore to dominate Christian peoples. To 
repulse the Mohammedan invasion of Europe was therefore both a historical necessity 
and a historical merit for the Christian nations which took a leading part in the 

^ Chiefly, but not exclusively, for Spain too had some truly spiritual champions of 
Christianity. Such, e.g., was Raymond Lullius, who devoted his life to spreading the 



the strength and the narrowness of the national spirit of Spain. 
More than any other nation the Spaniards distorted the truth 
of Christianity in their practical conception of it and in their 
actions ; more decisively than any one they associated it with 
violence. According to the general custom of the Middle 
Ages, the Spaniards based their practical view of the world 
upon the distinction between the two swords — the spiritual 
sword of the monks under the rule of the Pope, and the worldly 
sword of the knights under the rule of the king. But in their 
case — more than in the case of any other nation — the two 
swords were so closely connected as to become essentially alike. 
The spiritual sword proved in the end to be as material and 
violent as the worldly, though more painful and less noble than 
the latter. The special part played by the Spanish nation 
in this respect is shown by the fact that the Inquisition had 
twice been started by Spaniards — by the monk Dominique in 
the thirteenth, and the king Ferdinand in the fifteenth century .1 
The struggle of Spanish knights with the bellicose Moham- 
medan invaders was a gain to Christianity and the source of the 
greatness of Spain. The work of the ' spiritual sword ' against 
the conquered Moors and defenceless Jews was treason to the 
spirit of Christ, a disgrace to Spain and the first cause of its 
downfall. The bitter fruits of the • fatal historical sin did not 
ripen at once. In following its old path of external service 
to the Christian faith Spain did one good thing more for the 
common cause — namely, she spread Christianity beyond the 

true religion by means of rational persuasion. He worked out a special method, 
which he thought could render the dogmas of the faith as self-evident as the truths of 
pure mathematics and formal logic. Later on he became a missionary, and was 
assassinated in the Bastarian Colonies for peaceful preaching of the Gospel. 

' It is a curious coincidence that in both the East and the West the first persecution 
for religious beliefs — namely, the persecution of the Manichean heresy in the fourth 
century — was due to a Spaniard — Theodosius the Great. It is curious too that the 
heresy of the Albigenses, against which the Dominican inquisition was originally 
intended, was a direct development of Manicheism, on account of which the Emperor 
Theodosius had appointed his ' inquisitors ' ten centuries before. Shortly before that 
time the deplorable part which the Spanish nation was to play with regard to religious 
persecutions was foreshadowed by the fact that the first execution for religious belief 
(viz. that of the Priscillian heretics) was due to the instigation of two Spanish bishops. 
This unheard-of action called forth protests both in Italy (St. Ambrose of Milan) and 
in France (St. Martin of Tours). 


ocean. Spanish knights and pirates acquired for Christian 
culture, such as it was, the greater part of the new world. They 
saved a whole country (Mexico) from such abominations and 
horrors of satanic heathendom ^ as cause even the horrors of the 
Inquisition to fade (and the Inquisition itself was abolished 
soon after). They founded in Southern and Central America 
a dozen new States which take some part in the common 
historical life of humanity. At the same time Spanish mission- 
aries — a real saint like the Jesuit Francis Xavier among them— 
were the first to carry the Gospel to India and Japan. Spain, 
however, still regarded as its main task the defence of Christianity 
(as she understood it, i.e. of the Roman Church) from its im- 
mediate and most dangerous enemies. In the fifteenth century 
it found such enemies no longer in the Mohammedans but 
in the Protestants. At the present time we can look upon 
the Reformation as a necessary moment in the history of 
Christianity itself. But for people who lived at that epoch it 
was impossible to take this view. They either themselves 
became Protestants or regarded Protestantism as a hostile attack, 
proceeding from the devil, against the Christian truth embodied 
in the Church. For Spain, whose whole history was bound up 
with the Catholic idea, there could be no choice. All the 
strength of the most powerful country of the time was directed 
to crushing the new religious movement. It was a work wrong 
in principle, revoltingly cruel in practice, and a hopeless failure 
in its result. The moral guilt of Spain, which made the Duke 
of Alba her national and 'Christian' hero, is beyond all doubt. 
One can only point to some extenuating circumstances. The 
Spanish were sincerely, though bhndly, convinced that they 
were standing up for a good that is universal, for what is most 
important and precious to humanity — the one true religion, 
of which godless renegades, possessed by the spirit of evil, wanted 
to rob mankind. In this national struggle against Protestantism 
the Spanish defended a certain universal principle, namely, the 
principle of the external guardianship of a divine institution over 
humanity. It was a false and untenable universalism, but its 
champions sincerely believed in it and served it disinterestedly 

1 For an impartial statement of the facts see A. Reville's book on the religion of 
Mexico and Peru. 


without any selfish considerations, whether nationally-political or 
personal. At the same time the Spanish genius of Ignatius 
Loyola founded, with the purpose of combating Protestantism 
by peaceful means, the order of Jesuits — an order of which 
people may think what they like, but to which one thing can 
certainly not be denied — viz. its universal and international 
character. So that in making the struggle with Protestantism 
into a national idea the Spanish did not separate it from the 
interests of the common good, as they understood it. The 
unsuccessful external struggle for Roman Catholicism under- 
mined the kingdom of Spain, but did not exhaust the spiritual 
forces of the Spanish nation. Moral energy shown in the 
defence of a universal though a wrongly conceived cause found 
another and a better expression in the realm of the spirit. In 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Spain made considerable 
national contributions to the general treasury of higher culture 
in the domain of art, poetry, and contemplative mysticism. In 
all these things the Spanish genius was occupied with objects 
important not for the Spanish nation only but for all mankind. 
Its work was extremely national in character, but this came 
about naturally, without any deHberate inter! tion on the part 
of the authors. It undoubtedly had a universal interest, and 
supported the glory of Spain at a time when her external power 
was on the wane and her arms were justly suffering defeat. The 
influence of Spanish culture rivalled that of the Italian in the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, precisely at a time when 
half Europe entertained a natural hostiUty towards the defenders 
of the old religion. 

The highest development of the English national spirit may, 
for the sake of brevity, be designated by five names : Bacon, 
Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, and Penn. These five names have 
nothing to do with the demands and pretensions of exclusive 
nationalism. They stand for what is of importance and value to 
all mankind, and express the common debt of humanity to England. 
The men who created the national greatness of England never 
thought of nationalism as such. One was concerned with the 
true knowledge of nature and of man, and was occupied with the 
problem of a new and better scientific method ; another sought 
artistically to represent the human soul, human passions, characters 


and destinies, and did not hesitate to borrow his subjects from 
foreign literature and transfer the place of action to foreign 
countries. The great leaders of the Puritan movement, who found 
their prophet in Milton, thought above all things of ordering life 
in accordance with the Biblical ideal, equally binding, in their 
view, upon all nations. These Englishmen did not hesitate to 
recognise for their own and to carry beyond the ocean an ideal 
Hebrew in its first origin and German in its Protestant form. 
And the greatest representative of modern science discovered with 
his English intellect a universal truth about the physical world as 
an interconnected whole, containing, as a principle of its unity, 
that which he called the ' sensorium of the Deity.' 

A broadly conceived world of scientific experience, open on 
all sides to the intellect ; profound artistic humanism ; high ideas 
of religious and political freedom and a grand conception of the 
physical unity of the universe — this is what the English nation 
produced through her heroes and men of genius. ' England for 
the English ' was not enough for them ; they thought that the 
whole world was for the English, and they had a right to think so, 
because they themselves were for the whole world. The wide 
diffusion of the English race was in close correlation with the 
good qualities of the national character. British merchants, 
of course, always observed their own interests ; but it is not 
flwy merchants who could succeed in colonising North America 
and forming a new great nation of it. For the United States 
were built up, not by the Redskins or Negroes, but by English 
people apd English political and religious ideas — ideas of universal 
significance. Nor is it any merchants who could take firm 
possession of India and build a civilised Australia on a perfectly 
virginal soil.^ 

The culminating point in the national history of France is the 
epoch of the great Revolution and of the Napoleonic wars, when 

f Hindus taught in English schools begin to complain — in the English and their 
own newspapers, after the English style — that the English yoke is burdensome 
and to say that their nation must be united and obtain freedom for itself. Why 
is it that this had never occurred to them before? The fact is that they obtained ideas, 
such as that of nationality, national spirit, national dignity, patriotism, solidarity, 
development, exclusively from the English. Left to themselves they had not been 
able to arrive at them during the two and a half thousand years of their history, in spite 
of their ancient wisdom. 


the universal significance of that country was most clearly apparent. 
The national life was then at its highest,' not perhaps from the 
point of view of its content, but of its intensity and of the breadth 
of external influence. No doubt, the rights of man and of citizen 
proclaimed to all the world proved to be largely fictitious j no 
doubt the all-embracing revolutionary trinity — liierti, egaliti, 
fraterntti — was realised in a very peculiar fashion. But in any 
case the fact that the people were carried away by these universal 
ideas showed that the spirit of narrow nationalism was foreign to 
them. Did France want to be ' for the French ' only when she 
surrendered herself to a half-Italian in order that he should direct 
her powers and sweep away in the whole of Europe the old order 
of things, introducing everywhere the principles of civic equality, 
religious and political freedom ? Apart from this epoch, indeed, 
France was always noted for a special kind of universal receptivity 
and communicativeness, by a power and a desire to grasp the ideas 
of others, give them a finished and popular form, and then to send 
them forth into the world. This power makes the history of 
France a vivid and emphatic rhumi of universal history, and is 
too obvious and too well known to dwell upon. 

Having first shown the greatness of her national spirit in the 
Reformation, Germany has in modern times (from the middle 
of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century) 
occupied the foremost place in the domain of higher culture, 
intellectual and aesthetic — the place which Italy had held at the 
end of mediaeval and at the beginning of modern history. The 
universal character and significance of the Reformation, of the 
poetry of Goethe, of the philosophy of Kant or Hegel, stands 
in no need of proof or demonstration. I will only observe that 
for Germany, as for Italy, the period of the highest development 
of the spiritual forces of the nation coincided with the period of 
political weakness and disruption. 

The bi-oad idealism of the Polish spirit, receptive of foreign 
influences to the point of enthusiasm and devotion, is only 
too obvious. The universalism of the Poles caused the narrow 
nationalists to reproach them of 'treason to the cause of the 
Slavs.' But those who are familiar with the shining lights of 
Polish thought — Mickiewicz, Krasinski, Tovianski, Slowacki — 
know how greatly the power of the national genius showed 


itself in their uniyersalistic work. As to our own country, the 
Russian spirit has hitherto found no embodiment more vivid and 
powrerful than the Tsar, whose powerful arm has demolished our 
national exclusiveness for ever, and the poet who had a special 
gift to identify himself with the genius of other nations and yet 
remain wholly Russian,^ Peter the Great and Pushkin — these 
two names are sufficient to prove that the dignity of our national 
spirit found its realisation only in unreserved communion with 
the rest of humanity, and not apart from it. 

Without enumerating all the other nations, I will only mention 
Holland and Sweden. The national glory and prosperity of the 
first were due to her struggle for the faith against Spanish 
despotism. As a consequence of it, the little country did not shut 
itself up in its dearly bought independence, but became the abode 
of free thought for all Europe. Sweden manifested hei national 
greatness when, under Gustavus Adolphus, she devoted herself to 
the service of the common cause of religious freedom against the 
policy of compulsory uniformity. 


The history of all nations which have had a direct influence 
upon the destinies of humanity in ancient and modern times 
teaches one and the same thing. At the period when their powers 
were unfolded to the utmost, they took the greatness and the 
value of their nationality to lie not in itself taken in the abstract, 
but in something universal, supernational that they believed in, 
that they served and that they realised in their creative work — a 
work national in its origin and means of expression, but wholly 
universal in its content and in its objective result. Nations live 
and act not for their own sakes, nor for the sake of their material 
interests, but of their idea, i.e. for the sake of what is most 
important to them and can be of service to the world as a whole— 
they live not for themselves only, but for all. That which a nation 
believes in and does in faith it is bound to regard as unconditionally 
good — not as its own good, but as good in itself and therefoie as 

^ The well-known remark of Dostoevsky, who at his best was himself equally all- 


good for all ; and such it generally proves to be. Historical 
representatives of a nation may wrrongly understand this or that 
aspect of a nationally-universal idea which they serve, and then 
their service is bad and fruitless. Philip II. and the Duke of 
Alba had a very wrong idea of ecclesiastical unity, and the Paris 
Convention understood the idea of human rights no better. But 
the bad understanding passes away and the idea remains, and, if 
it is really rooted in the soul of a people, it finds new and better 
expression free from the old imperfections. 

The creative work of a nation, i.e. that which a nation con- 
cretely realises in the world, is universal ; the object of true national 
self-consciousness is universal also. A nation is not aware of itself 
in the abstract, as of an empty subject separate from the content 
and the meaning of its life. It is conscious of itself in relation to 
that which it does and wants to do, in relation to what it believes 
in and what it serves. 

It is clear from history that a nation does not regard itself, 
taken in the abstract, as the purpose of its life. In other words, 
it does not set an absolute value upon its material interest apart 
from its supreme ideal condition. But if this be so, the individual 
too has no right in his love for his nation to separate it from the 
meaning of its existence and to put the service of its material 
advantages above the demands of morality. A nation in and 
through its true creative work and self-consciousness affirms itself 
in the universal — in that which is of value for every one and in 
which all are united. How then can a true patriot, for the sake of 
a supposed ' advantage ' to his nation, destroy its solidarity with 
other nations, and despise or hate foreigners ? A nation finds its 
true good in the common good ; how then can a patriot take the 
good of his nation to be something distinct from and opposed to 
everything else ? It will clearly not be the ideal moral good 
which the nation itself desires, and the supposed patriot will 
prove to be opposed not to other nations but to his own in its best 
aspirations. National hostility and opposition no doubt exist, just 
as cannibalism once existed everywhere j they exist as a zoological 
fact, condemned by the best consciousness of the peoples themselves. 
Made into an abstract principle this zoological fact hangs over 
the life of nations, obscuring its significance and destroying 
its inspiration — for the significance and the inspiration of the 


particular is only to be found in its connection and harmony with the 

As against false patriotism or nationalism, which supports the 
predominance of the animal instincts of a people over its higher 
national self-consciousness, cosmopolitanism is right in demanding 
that the moral law shall be unconditionally applied to all, apart 
from all difference of nationality/ But it is the moral principle 
itself which, when consistently worked out^ prevents us from being 
satisfied with the negative demand of cosmopolitanism. 

Let it be granted that the immediate object of the moral 
relation is the individual person. But one of the essential peculiari- 
ties of that person — direct continuation and expansion of his 
individual character — is his nationality (in the positive sense of 
character, type, and creative power). This is not merely a 
physical, but also a psychical and moral fact. At the stage 
of development now reached by humanity the fact of belong- 
ing to a given nationality is to a certain extent confirmed 
by the individual's self-conscious will. Thus nationality is an 
inner, inseparable property of the person — is something very dear 
and close to him. It is impossible to stand in a moral relation 
to this • person without recognising the existence of what is so 
important to him. The moral principle does not allow us to 
transform a concrete person, a living marl with his inseparable 
and essential national characteristics into an empty abstract subject 
with all his determining peculiarities left out. If we are to 
recognise the inner dignity of this particular man this obligation 
extends to all positive characteristics with which he connects his 
dignity ; if we love a man we must love his nation which he loves 
and from which he does not separate himself. The highest moral 
ideal demands that we should love all men as we love ourselves. But 
since men do not exist outside of nations (just as nations do not 
exist apart from individual men), and since this connection has 
already become moral and inward as well as physical, the direct 
logical deduction is that we must love all nations as we love our own. 
This commandment affirms patriotism as a natural and fundamental 
feeling, as a direct duty of the individual to the collective whole 
immediately above him, and at the same time it frees that feeling 
from the zoological properties of national egoism or nationalism, 
and makes it the basis of and the standard for a positive relation 


to all other nations in accordance with the absolute and all- 
embracing principle of morality. The significance of this demand 
of loving other nations does not in any way depend upon the 
metaphysical question as to whether nations are independent 
collective entities. Even if a nation exists only in its visible indi- 
vidual representatives, at any rate in them it constitutes a positive 
peculiarity which one may value and love in foreigners just as 
much as in men belonging to our own people. If such a relation 
actually becomes a rule, national differences will be preserved and 
even intensified, while hostile divisions and aggressiveness, that are 
so fundamental an obstacle to the moral organisation of humanity, 
will disappear. 

The demand to love other nations as our own does not at all 
imply ?i psychological identity of feeling, but only an ethical identity 
of conduct. I must desire the true good of all other nations 
as much as that of my own. This 'love of benevolence' is 
identical if only because the true good is one and indivisible. Such 
ethical love involves, of course, a psychological understanding and 
approval of the positive characteristics of other nations. Once the 
senseless and ignorant national hostility has been overcome by 
the moral will, we begin to know and to value other nations — we 
begin to like them. This ' approving love,' however, can never 
be identical with the love we feel for our own people, just as the 
sincerest love to our neighbours (according to the commandment 
of the Gospel) can never be psychologically identical with the love 
for oneself, although it is ethically equivalent to it. One's own 
selfy just as one's own nation, always retains the priority of a starting- 
point. When this difficulty is cleared away, no serious objections 
can be raised against the principle : love all other nations as your own?- 

^ I cannot regard as serious the objection made by one of my critics that it is 
impossible to love one's own and other nations equally, because in war it is necessary to 
fight for one's own people against the others, I would have thought it obvious that 
the moral mrm of international relations must be deduced from some other fact than that 
of war. Otherwise we might be driven to talce as the norm for personal relations such 
facts as, e.g., a furious fight between an actor and a Government clerk, which recently 
engaged the attention of the newspapers. 



Having accepted the unconditional principle of morality as the 
standard of all human relations we shall find no real inner diificulty 
in applying it to international morality, i.e. to the question as to 
how we ought to regard foreigners as such ; neither the character- 
istics of this or that people nor the general feet of belonging to a 
foreign nation contain any moral hmitation in virtue of which we 
might a priori regard a given foreigner as a worse man than any of our 
compatriots. There is therefore no moral ground for national in- 
equality. The general demand of altruism — to love one's neighbour 
as oneself and another nation as one's own — remains here in full 
force. The fact of international hostility must be unconditionally 
condemned as directly opposed to the absolute norm and as essen- 
tially anti-Christian.i The normal or the right attitude to foreign 
nations is directly demanded by the unconditional principle of 
morality. Its application involves great practical difficulties, both 
historical and psychological, but it does not give rise to any inner 
moral difficulties, complications, or questions. Such difficulties 
arise when instead of the morally indifferent fact of nationality 
we have to deal with a fact which undoubtedly belongs to the 
moral sphere, namely, that of criminality. 

The connotation and the denotation of this idea vary with 
regard to detail according to time and place. Much that was 
formerly regarded as criminal is no longer recognised as such. 
The very feet of criminality which had once extended to the 

1 The question of mar is historically connected with the fact of international hostility 
but is not exhausted thereby. Apart from international wars there have been, and may 
be in the future, intestine wars — social and religious. The problem of war must be 
considered separately, and one of the subsequent chapters will be devoted to it. 



criminal's family and relatives is, at a certain stage of spiritual 
development, recognised as exclusively a personal characteristic. 
But these historical changes do not aiFect the nature of the case. 
Apart from the supposed criminals of different kinds, in all human 
societies there have always been and to the end of the world there 
will be real criminals, i.e. men with an evil will sufficiently strong 
and decided to be directly realised in practice to the detriment of 
their neighbours and the danger of the community as a whole. 
How then are we to regard these avowedly bad people ? It is 
clear that from the point of view of the absolute moral principle 
the demands of altruism which received their final expression in 
the Christian commandments of Ipvg must extend to these men 
too. But the question, in the first place, is how we are to 
combine loye for the evil-doer with love for his victim, and 
secondly, what should be the practical expression of our love for 
the evil-doer or criminal so long as he is in this obviously abnormal 
moral condition. No one can avoid this moral question. Even if 
a person never came into personal contact with unquestionable 
crimes and criminals, as a member of society he must know that 
there exists, a very complex administrative, legal and penal organi- 
sation intended for dealing with crime. He must, therefore, in 
any case, determine his moral relation to these institutions — and 
this in the last resort depends on his attitude to crime and the 
criminal. What ought this attitude to be from the purely moral 
point of view ? In deajing with this important question, I will 
begin with the simplest case, vvhich lies at the basis of all further 


When one man is doing injury to another, e.g. when the 
stronger man is beating the weaker, a person witnessing the 
injury- — if he takes the moral point of view — experiences a double 
feeling and an impulse to a twofold course of action. In the 
first place, he wants to defend the victim, and in the second, to 
bring the injurer to his senses. Both impulses have the same moral 
source — the recognition of another person's life and the respect 
for another person's dignity, psychologically based upon the feeling 
of pity or compassion.. We experience direct pity for the being 


who undergoes physical and mental suffering ; the mental suffer- 
ing, of which he is more or less clearly conscious, consists in the 
fact that human dignity has been violated in his person. Such 
external violation of human dignity in the injured is inevitably 
connected with the inward degradation of that dignity in the 
injurer ; in both cases it demands to be re-established. Psycho- 
logically, our feeling for the victim is very different from our 
feeling for the aggressor — the first is pure pity, and in the second 
anger and moral indignation predominate. But to be moral, that 
indignation must not pass into injustice towards the wrong-doer, 
into denying his human right, although that right materially 
differs from the right of the victim. The latter has a right to 
our defence, the former has a right to be brought to reason by us. 
The moral basis of the two relations is, however, in the case of 
rational beings, one and the same — the absolute worth or dignity 
of human personality, which we recognise in others as well as in 
ourselves. The twofold violation of that dignity taking place in 
criminal assault — violation passive in the injured and active in the 
injurer — calls forth a moral reaction in us, which is essentially the 
same in both cases, in spite of the fact that its psychological 
expression is different and even opposed. Of course, when the 
injury directly or indirectly causes physical pain to the victim, the 
latter excites a more strong and immediate feeling of pity ; but 
speaking generally, the injurer ought to rouse even greater pity, 
for he inwardly loses his moral dignity. However this may bej 
the moral principle demands that we should recognise the right of 
both to our help in re-establishing the violated norm both in the 
one and in the other. 

This deduction from the moral principle, demanding that in 
the case of crime, i.e. of injury to man by man, we should take 
up a moral attitude to both parties, is far from being universally 
recognised. It must be defended against two kinds of adversaries. 
Some — ^and they are in the majority^recognise only the right of 
the victim or of the injured person (or community) to be defended 
and avenged. The wrong-doer or the criminal, once his guilt has 
been proved, they regard, at any rate in practice, as a rightless, 
passive object of retribution, i.e. of more or less complete crushing 
or extermination — ' hanging is too good for him,' ' to the dog a 
dog's death,' is the popular sincere expression of this point of view. 


Its direct opposition to the moral principle and its incompati- 
bility with any degree of developed human feeling ^ explains and 
psychologically excuses the extreme opposite view, which is 
beginning to gain ground in our time. This view recognises the 
right of the injurer to be brought to reason by means of verbal 
persuasion only, and admits of no compulsion with regard to him — 
which practically amounts to depriving the injured person or 
society of their right to defence. Their safety is made to depend 
upon the success of persuasion, i.e. on something quite problematical, 
which no one can control or be held responsible for. Let us 
carefully consider the two opposed doctrines, which, for the sake 
of brevity, I will describe respectively as the doctrine of retribution 
and the doctrine of verbal persuasion. 


The doctrine of retribution admits of a very real explanation 
and of fictitious proof, and when dealing with it, it is very im- 
portant not to mix the one with the other. When an animal 
is attacked by another about to devour it, the instinct of self- 
preservation urges it to defend itself with its claws and teeth, or, 
if these are not strong enough, to seek safety in flight. No one 
would look for moral motives in this case any more than in the 
physical self-defence of man, whose natural means of defence are 
replaced or supplemented by artificial weapons. Even the savage, 
however, does not as a rule live by himself, but belongs to some 
social group — a family, a clan, a band. Therefore when he 
encounters an enemy the affair does not end with their single 
combat. Murder or any other injury inflicted upon a member of 
a group is felt by the group as a whole and rouses in it a feeling 
of resentment, In so far as that feeling includes pity for the 
victim, we must recognise the presence of a moral element in it. 
But no doubt the predominant part is played by the instinct of 
collective self-preservation, like among bees and other social 
animals. In defending one of its members, the clan or the family 
is defending itself; in avenging one of its members, it is aveng- 
ing itself. But for the same reasons the aggressor too is defended 

' This is shown, among other things, by the fact that among the people, at any rate 
among the Russian people, criminals are called the unfortunate. 


by his clan or family. Single combats thus develop into wars 
between entire communities. The Homeric poems have preserved 
for us this stage of social relations by immortalising the Trojan 
war, which arose out of a private injury inflicted by Paris upon 
Menelaus. The history of the Arabs before Mohammed is full 
of such wars. The ideas of crime and punishment do not really 
exist at this stage at all ; the injurer is an enemy to be revenged 
upon, not a criminal to be punished. The place which later on is 
occupied by legal justice is here entirely taken up by the uni- 
versally recognised and absolutely binding custom of blood- 
vengeance. This custom applies, of course, to injuries between 
members of different clans or tribes. But, speaking generally, 
other kind of injuries are not found at this stage of the communal 
life. The cohesion of the social group bound together by kinship 
is too strong, and the prestige of the patriarchal power too great, 
for the individual to rebel against it. It is almost as impossible 
as the conflict of an individual bee with the rest of the hive. No 
doubt even at the primitive stage man retained his power of 
arbitrary choice and did in some few instances manifest it. But 
these exceptional cases were dealt with by exceptional measures 
on the part of the patriarchal authority, and did not call forth any 
general regulations. Things were changed with the transition to 
the order of the state. When many clans and tribes for any 
reason chose or were compelled to unite in one way or another 
under one common leader with a more or less definite power 
they lost their independence and forfeited the right of blood- 

It is curious that philosophers and jurists, from ancient times 
and almost down to our own day, made a priori theories with 
regard to the origin of the state, as though all actual states had 
arisen in some remote prehistoric times. This is due, of course, 
to the extremely imperfect state of historical science. But what 
may be permissible to Hobbes and even to Rousseau cannot be 
allowed on the part of modern thinkers. The kinship-group stage 
through which all nations have passed in one way or another is 
not anything enigmatic : the clan is a direct consequence of the 
natural blood-tie. The question is, then, as to the transition from 
the stage of kinship to that of the state — and this can be an object of 
historical observation. It is sufficient to mention the transformation 


which took place in quite historical times of the disconnected 
tribes and clans of Northern Arabia into a powerful Mohammedan 
state. Its theocratic character is not an exception : such were to 
a greater or lesser extent all the important states of antiquity. 
Consider the way in which a state comes to be formed. A leader, 
military or religious, or most frequently both, ' impelled by the 
consciousness of his historic calling and also by personal motives, 
gathers round himself men from different clans and tribes, thus 
forming an inter-tribal nucleus. Around this nucleus entire 
clans and tribes come to be grouped voluntarily or by compulsion, 
receiving from the newly formed supreme power laws and 
government, and to a greater or lesser extent losing their inde- 
pendence. When a social group has a governrrient organised on 
the principle of hierarchy with a supreme central authority at 
the head, a regular army, a financial system based upon taxa- 
tion, and laws accompanied by penal sanctions, such -a group 
has the essential characteristics of a state. All the characteristics 
enumerated were present in the- Mohammedan community during 
the later years of Mohammed's life. It is remarkable that the 
history of the original formation of this state confirms to a certain 
extent the ' social contract ' theory. All the chief actions of 
the Arab prophet in this connection have been signalised by 
formal treaties, beginning with the so-called 'oath of women,' 
and ending with the conditions he dictated at Mecca after his 
final victory over the tribe of the Koreishites and their allies. It 
should be noted, too, that the fundamental point of all these treaties 
is the abolition of blood-vengeance between the tribes and clans 
which are to enter the new political union. 

Hence arises the distinction, which did not exist before, 
between private and public right. With regard to blood-vengeance 
and other important matters, the interests of the collective 
group were identical with the interests of the individual. This 
was all the more natural as in a small social group such as the 
clan or the tribe all, or at any rate most, of its members could 
know each other personally, and thus each was for all, and all for 
each — a concrete unit. In the State, however, the social group 
embraces hundreds of thousands or even niillions of men, and 
the concrete personal relation between the parts and the whole 
becomes impossible. A clear distinction is drawn between 


private and public interests and between the corresponding 
rights. In opposition to our modern legal notions, at that stage 
murder, robbery, bodily injuries, etc., are treated as the violations 
of private rights. Formerly, at the kinship-group stage, all such 
crimes were regarded as directly affecting the interests of the com- 
munity, and the whole clan retaliated upon the culprit and his 
kinsmen. When a wider political union was formed, this right 
and duty of blood-vengeance was taken away from the clan, but did 
not pass, unchanged, to the state. The new common authority, 
the source of government and of law, could not at once enter into 
the interests of all its numerous subjects to such an extent as to 
defend them like its own. The head of the state cannot act and 
feel like the elder of a clan. And we find that with regard to 
the defence of private persons and property the state is at first 
content with very little. For bodily injury or other violence to a 
free man, and even for the murder of one, the culprit or his 
relatives pay to the femily of the victim compensation in money, 
the amount of which is settled by mutual agreement (compositio), 
and is generally very moderate. Ancient law-codes, e.g. the laws 
of the Salic Francs, or our own Russkaya Pravda, which are 
relics of a primitive political order, are full of the enumerations 
of fines diiFering according to the sex of the person and to other 
circumstances. The direct and rapid transition from merciless 
blood-vengeance, often accompanied by long and devastating wars 
between entire tribes, to simple money compensation is remark- 
able ; but from the point of view indicated it is perfectly natural. 

At this stage of social development the only capital oiFences 
are, strictly speaking, political crimes ;i all other, murder included, 
are regarded as private quarrels rather than crimes. 

Such elementary opposition between public and private 
rights could not be stable. Money-fine for every kind of injury 
to a private person does not satisfy the injured party [e.g. the 
family of the murdered man), nor does it deter the wrong-doer, 
especially if he be rich, from committing further crimes. Under 
such conditions blood-vengeance for private offences, abolished by 

1 The denotation of this idea diiTered in accordance with the historical circum- 
stances. In the Middle Ages, when the capital character of simple murder was not 
yet clear to the legal consciousness, coining false money was punished by painful death, 
as a crime detrimental to society as a whole, infringing upon the privileges of the 
central authority and, in this sense, political. 



the state as opposed to its very conception, is renewed de facto 
and threatens to destroy the raison d'itre of the state : if each has 
to avenge his owrn wrrongs, why should he bear the hardships 
imposed by the new political order ? To justify the demands 
that private persons make upon it, the state must really take 
upon itself to protect their interests j in order to abolish the 
private right of blood-vengeance, the state must make it a public 
right, i.e. must itself exercise it. At this new and higher 
stage the solidarity of the central power with its individual 
subjects becomes more clear. The distinction between crimes 
directed against the government (political crimes) and those in- 
fringing upon private interests only is still retained, but it is 
now merely a distinction of degree. Each free man becomes a 
citizen, i.e. a member of the state which undertakes to protect 
his safety ; every violation of it is regarded by the state authority 
as an attack upon its own rights, as a hostile action against the 
social whole. All attacks against person and property are re- 
garded as violations of the law of the state, and no longer as 
private offences, and are therefore, like political crimes, for the state 
itself to avenge. 


The legal doctrine of retribution has then a historical founda- 
tion in the sense that legal punishments still in use in our day 
are a historical transformation of the primitive principle of blood- 
vengeance. Originally, the injured person was avenged by a 
more narrow social union called the clan, then by a wider and 
more complex union called the state. Originally, the criminal 
lost all human rights in the eyes of the clan he injured ; now he 
became the rightless subject of punishment in the eyes of the 
state, which revenges itself on him for the violation of its laws. 
The difference consists chiefly in the fact that at the patriarchal 
stage the act of vengeance itself was accomplished very simply — 
the aggressor was, at the first opportunity, killed like a dog — but 
the consequences were very complex, and took the form of 
endless inter-tribal wars. In the state, on the contrary, the act 
of vengeance, which the public authorities took upon themselves, 
was performed slowly and with all sorts of ceremonies, but no 


further complications ensued, for the criminal had no one 
sufficiently strong to avenge him — he was defenceless before the 
power of the state. 

But can the unquestionable fact that legal executions are 
a historical transformation of blood- vengeance be used as an 
argument in favour of the executions themselves, or in favour of 
the principle of retaliation ? Does this historical basis justify 
us in determining our attitude towards the criminal by the idea of 
vengeance, the idea, i.e., of paying evil for evil, pain for pain ? 
Speaking generally, logic does not allow us to make such deduc- 
tions from the genetic connection between two events. Not a 
single Darwinian, so far as I am aware, drew the conclusion that 
because man is descended from the lower animals he ought to be 
a brute. From the fact that the urban community of Rome had 
been originally established by a band of robbers, no historian 
has yet concluded that the true principle of the Holy Roman 
Empire ought to have been brigandage. With regard to the 
question before us, it is clear that since we are dealing with the 
evolution of blood-vengeance there is no reason to regard this 
evolution as completed. We know that the relation of society 
and of law to the criminal has undergone great changes. Pitiless 
blood-vengeance was replaced by money-fines, and these were 
replaced by 'civil executions,' extremely cruel at first, but, 
beginning with the eighteenth century, getting more and more 
mild. There is not the slightest rational ground to suppose 
that the limit of mercy has already been reached and that the 
gallows and the guillotine, penal servitude for life, and solitary 
confinement must for ever remain in the penal code of civilised 

But while historical progress clearly tends to eliminate the 
principle of vengeance or of exact retaliation from our treatment 
of criminals, and finally to abolish it altogether, many philosophers 
and jurists still continue to urge abstract arguments in defence of 
it. These arguments are so feeble that no doubt they will be 
an object of astonishment and ridicule to posterity, just as 
Aristotle's arguments in favour of slavery, or the ecclesiastical 
proofs of the flatness of the earth, are a source of wonder to us 
now. The pseudo-arguments used by the champions of the 
doctrine of retribution are not in themselves worth considering. 


But since they are still repeated by authors worthy of respect, 
and since the subject is of vital importance, the refutation of them 
ought also to be repeated. 

"Crime is a violation of right ; right must be re-established j 
punishment, i.e. equal violation of the criminal's right, performed 
in accordance with a definite law by public authority (in contra- 
distinction to private vengeance), balances the first violation, and 
thus right is re-established." This pseudo-argument turns on 
the term 'right.' But concrete right is always somebody's right 
(there must be a subject of rights). Whose right is then here 
referred to ? In the first place, apparently, it is the right of the 
injured person. Let us put this concrete content in the place 
of the abstract term. Peaceful shepherd Abel has no doubt a 
right to exist and to enjoy all the good things of life ; but a 
wicked man, Cain, comes and deprives him of this right by 
murdering him. The violated right must be re-established ; 
to do so public authority comes on the scene and, against 
the direct warning of Holy Writ (Genesis iv. 15), hangs the 
murderer. Well, does this re-establish Abel's right to live ? 
Since no one but an inmate of Bedlam would afHrm that the 
execution of the murderer raises the victim from the dead, we 
must take the word 'right' in this connection to mean, not 
the right of the injured person, but of somebody else. The 
society or the state '^ may be the subject of the right violated by 
the crime. All private rights (of life, of property, etc.) are 
guaranteed by the state ; it answers for their inviolability in 
placing them under the defence of its laws. The law forbidding 
private persons to take the life of their fellow-citizens at their 
own discretion is proclaimed by the state in its own right, and 
therefore the violation of the law (a murder) means violation of 
the right of the state. The execution of the murderer re- 
establishes the right of the state and the dignity of the law — 
not the right of the murdered man.^ 

' In this connection either term may be used indilFerently. 

^ In the opinion of one of my critics, I am wrong in supposing that a crime must 
necessarily be the violation o( somebody' s right. Apart from any subject of rights — 
individual or collective, private or public — and also apart from the moral norm or the 
absolute good, there exists, it is urged, right as such, — an independent objective essence, 
and the proper object of punishment is the satisfaction of this self-existent right. The 
critic is mistaken in thinking that I am ignorant of this metaphysical impersonation of 


What justice this argument contains has nothing to do with 
the case. There is no doubt that once laws exist, their viola- 
tion must not be overlooked, and that it is the business of the 
state to see to it. But we are not dealing here with the general 
question of the punishability of crime, for in this respect all crimes 
are identical. If a law is sacred in itself as proceeding from the 
state, this is true of all laws in an equal degree. They all equally 
express the right of the state ; and the violation of any law what- 
ever is the violation of this supreme right. Material differences 
between crimes have to do with the particular interests which 
are infringed ; but on its formal side, in relation to what is 
universal, that is to the state as such, and to its law and power, 
every crime, if, of course, it is committed by a responsible agent, 
presupposes a will opposed to the law, a will that sets it at nought 
and is therefore criminal — and from this point of view all crimes 
ought logically to require the same punishment. But the 
difference in punishments for the different crimes exists in all 
legal codes, and it obviously presupposes, in addition to the general 
principle of punishability, a certain other specific principle which 
determines the particular connection between this crime and this 
punishment. The doctrine of retribution discovers this connection 
in the fact that the right violated by a particular criminal action 
is re-established by a corresponding or equal action — for instance, 
a murderer must be killed. There can, however, be no real 
correspondence or equality. The most famous champions of the 
doctrine conceive of the matter as follows : Right is something 
positive, say a + (plus) ; the violation of it is something negative, 
- (a minus). If the negation in the form of crime has taken place 
{e.g. a man has been deprived of Hfe), it must call forth equal 
negation in the form of punishment (taking the murderer's life). 
Then such double negation, or the negation of the negative, will 
once more bring about a positive state, i.e. re-establish the right : 
minus multiplied by minus makes plus. It is difficult to take this 
' play of mind ' seriously ; it should be noted, however, that the idea 

the ancient Moloch, But there is no need for me to go into it, since no serious crimino- 
logist has for a long time past upheld it. It is obvious that 'right' is by its very 
meaning a relation between subjects, conditioned by certain moral and practical norms, 
and that therefore a subjectless and unrelated right is an Unding — a thought that has 
no content. 


of the negation of the negative logically expresses a direct inner 
relation between two opposed acts. Thus, for instance, if an 
impulse of ill-will in man is ' negative,' is, namely, a negation 
of the moral norm, the opposite act of will, suppressing that 
impulse, will indeed be a 'negation of the negative,' and the 
result will be a positive one — man's affirmation of himself as 
normal. Similarly, if crime as an active expression of ill-will is 
negative, the criminal's active repentance will be a negation of the 
negative (that is, not of the fact, of course, but of the inner cause 
that produced it), and the result will again be positive — his moral 
regeneration. But the execution of the criminal has obviously 
no such significance ; in this case the negation is directed, as in 
the crime itself, upon something positive — upon human life. It 
cannot indeed be maintained that the execution of the criminal 
negates his crime, for that crirtie is an irrevocably accomplished 
fact, and, according to the remark of the Fathers of the Church, 
God Himself cannot undo what has been done. Nor does it 
negate the criminal's evil will, for the criminal has either repented 
of his crime — and in that case there is no longer any evil will — 
or he remains obdurate to the end, and then his will is inaccessible 
to the treatment he is receiving ; and in any case an external 
enforced action can neither cancel nor change the inner state 
of will. What, then, is negated by the execution of the 
criminal is not his evil will, but the positive good of life, — and 
this is once more a simple negation, and not a 'negation of the 
negative.' But a simple succession of two negatives cannot lead 
to anything positive. The misuse of the algebraic formula makes 
the argument simply ridiculous. In order that two minuses, that 
is, two negative quantities, should make a plus, it is not sufficient 
to place them one after another, but it is necessary to multiply one 
by the other. But there is no intelligible meaning in multiplying 
crime by punishment.^ 


The inherent absurdity of the doctrine of retribution or 
'avenging justice' is emphasised by the fact that, with a few 

' It is obvious that we cannot in this case go further than addition (of the material 
results). The corpse of the murdered victim may be added to the corpse of the hanged 
murderer and then there will be two corpses — i.e. two negative quantities. 


exceptions, it has no relation whatever to the existing penal laws. 
Strictly speaking, there is only one case in which it appears to be 
applicable — that of the death penalty for murder. Therefore the 
pseudo-philosophical arguments in favour of this doctrine, the gist 
of which has been considered above, refer to this single instance 
only — a bad omen for a principle which lays claim to universal 
significance. In Russia, where capital punishment is the penalty 
for certain political crimes only, there is not even this one case of 
apparent correspondence. No trace of equality between crime 
and punishment can be detected in the case of parricide and penal 
servitude for life, or simple murder with a view to robbery and 
twelve years' penal servitude. The best argument against the 
doctrine is the circumstance that it finds its fullest application in 
the penal codes of some half-savage peoples, or in the laws pre- 
valent at the epoch of barbarism, when,- e.g., for inflicting a 
certain injury the culprit underwent a similar injury, for speaking 
insolent words a person had his tongue cut out, etc, A prin- 
ciple the application of which proves to be incompatible with a 
certain degree of culture and refinement is condemned by the 
verdict of history. 

In modern times the doctrine of re-establishing right by means 
of equal retribution was, if I am not mistaken, defended by 
abstract philosophers more than by jurists. The latter under- 
stand the equalisation of crime with punishment in the relative 
and quantitative sense only (the measure of punishment). They 
demand, i.e., that a crime more grave than another should be 
punished more severely, so that there should be a scale of punish- 
ments corresponding to the scale of crimes. But the basis and, 
consequently, the apex of the penal ladder remains indefinite, and 
therefore the punishments may be either inhumanly cruel or 
extremely mild. Such a scale of penalties has existed in the 
penal codes in which all, or almost all, simple crimes were 
punished by a fine : a larger fine was paid for the murder of a 
man than for the murder of a woman, for a serious bodily injury 
than for a slight one, etc. On the other hand, codes in which 
the penalty for theft was hanging punished more heinous crimes 
by capital punishment accompanied by various degrees of torture. 
What is in this case immoral is the cruelty of the punishments, 
and not, of course, their graduated character. 


From the moral point of view it is of interest that the penal 
laws show a tendency to preserve the cruel punishments as far as 
possible. This tendency has no doubt become weaker, but it has 
not yet disappeared altogether. Not finding a sufficiently secure 
foundation in the pseudo-rational principle of ' re-established right,' 
it seeks empirical support in the principle of intimidation. In 
truth, the latter has always formed part of the doctrine of retribu- 
tion. The popular aphorism, ' To a dog a dog's death,' has always 
been accompanied by the addition, ' as a warning to others.' 

This principle can hardly be said to be wholly valid even from 
the utilitarian and empirical point of view. No doubt fear is an 
important human instinct, but it has no decisive significance for 
man. The perpetually increasing number of suicides "proves that, 
in many, death itself inspires no fear. Prolonged solitary con- 
finement or penal servitude may in themselves be more terrible 
but they do. not produce an immediate intimidating effect. I 
will not dwell upon these and other well-known arguments against 
the theory of intimidation, such as the contention that the 
criminal always hopes to avoid detection and escape punishment, 
or that the enormous majority of crimes are committed under the 
influence of some passion which stifles the voice of sagacity. 
The relative force of all these arguments is open to dispute. In- 
disputable refutation of the deterrent theory is only possible from 
the moral point of view. It is refuted, first, on the ground of 
principle, as directly opposed to the fundamental law of morality, 
and, secondly, by the fact that this opposition compels the 
champions of intimidation to be inconsistent and gradually to 
relinquish, on the strength of moral motives, the most clear and 
efiiective demands of their own theory. It is understood, of 
course, that I am referring here to intimidation as a fundamental 
principle of legal justice and not merely as a psychological fact, 
which naturally accompanies any method of dealing with crime. 
Even supposing it were intended to reform criminals by means of 
moral exhortation alone, the prospect of such tutelage, .however 
mild and rational, might intimidate vain and self-willed men and 
deter them from criminal actions. Obviously, however, this is 
not what is meant by the theory which regards intimidation as 
the essence and the direct object of punishment, and not as an 
indirect consequence of it. 


The moral principle asserts that human dignity must be 
respected in every person, and that therefore no one may be made 
merely a means of or an instrument for the advantage of others. 
According to the deterrent theory, however, the criminal w^ho is 
being punished is regarded as merely a means for intimidating 
others and safeguarding public safety. The penal lav^ may, of 
course, intend to benefit the criminal himself, by deterring him, 
through fear of punishment, from committing the crime. But once 
the crime has been committed, this motive obviously disappears, 
and the criminal in being punished becomes solely a means of intimi- 
dating others, i.e. a means to an end external to him ; and this is in 
direct contradiction to the unconditional law of morality. From 
the moral point of view a punishment inspiring fear would only 
be permissible as a threat ; but a threat which is never fulfilled 
loses its meaning. Thus, the principle of penal intimidation can 
be moral only on condition of being useless, and can be materially 
useful only on condition of being applied immorally. 

In point of fact the theory of intimidation finally lost its 
sting from the time when all civilised and half-civilised countries 
abolished cruel corporal punishments and capital punishment 
accompanied by torture. It is clear that if the object of punish- 
ment is to intimidate both the criminal and others, these means 
are certainly the most effective and rational. Why then do the 
champions of intimidation renounce the true and the only reliable 
means of intimidation ? Probably because they consider these 
means immoral and opposed to the demands of pity and humanity. 
In that case, however, intimidation ceases to be the determining 
factor in punishment. It must be one or the other : either the 
meaning of punishment is intimidation — and in that case execution 
accompanied by' torture must be admitted as pre-eminently in- 
timidating ; or the nature of punishment is determined by the 
moral principle — and in that case intimidation must be given up 
altogether, as a motive essentially immoral.^ 

' In the eighteenth century, when the movement against the cruelty of penal laws was 
at its height, several writers sought to prove that torturing prisoners is both inhuman 
and useless as a deterrent, for it does not prevent any one from committing crimes. If 
this contention could be substantiated it would deprive the theory of intimidation of 
all meaning whatever. It is obvious that if even painful executions are insufficient to 
intimidate criminals, punishments more mild are still less likely to do so. 



The circumstance that the most consistent forms of retribution 
and ' intimidation have disappeared from modern penal codes, in 
spite of the fact that from the first point of view such forms must 
be recognised as the most just, and from the second as the most 
effective, is sufficient to prove that a different, a moral point of 
view has penetrated into this sphere and made considerable pro- 
gress in it. This undoubted and fairly rapid progress has failed 
to affect the penal codes of savage or barbarian peoples alone — 
such as the Abyssinians or the Chinese ; and even they, indeed, 
are about to enter into the general life of civilised humanity. 
Nevertheless, our own penal systems — I mean those of Europe 
and America — still retain much unnecessary violence and cruelty, 
which can only be explained as a dead legacy of the defunct 
principles of retribution and intimidation. Among these vestiges 
of the past are capital punishment, which is still being obstinately 
defended though it has lost its grounds ; indefinite deprivation of 
liberty ; penal servitude ; exile into distant countries with unbear- 
able conditions of life, etc. 

All this systematic cruelty is revolting to the moral feeling 
and brings about a change in our original attitude towards the 
criminal. Pity to the injured person and the impulse to defend 
him set us against the injurer (the criminal). But when society, 
which is incomparably stronger than the individual criminal, turns 
upon him its insatiable hostility after he has been disarmed, and 
makes him undergo prolonged suffering, it is he who becomes 
the injured party and excites in us pity and a desire to protect him. 
Although the legal theory and the legal practice have decidedly 
renounced consistent application of the principles of retribution and 
intimidation, they have not given up the principles themselves. 
The system of punishments that exists in civilised countries is 
a meaningless and lifeless compromise between these worthless 
principles on the one hand and certain demands of humanity and 
justice on the other. In truth, what we find are simply the more 
or less softened vestiges of the old brutality, with no uniting 
thought, no guiding principle involved. The compromise cannot 


help us to solve the question that is essential for the moral con- 
sciousness : does the fact of crime deprive the criminal of his 
human rights, or does it not ? If it does not^ how can we rob 
him of the first condition of any right — of existence, as is done in 
the case of capital punishment ? And if the fact of crime does 
deprive the criminal of his natural rights, what need is there of 
legal ceremony with rightless beings ? Empirically this dilemma 
is solved by a distinction being drawn between crimes, some of 
which are taken to deprive the criminal of human rights, and 
others merely to limit them to a greater or lesser extent. Both 
the principle and the degree of such limitation are, however, 
changeable and indefinite, and the very distinction between the 
two kinds of crime proves to be arbitrary and to differ according 
to time and place. Thus, for instance, in Western Europe political 
crimes do not involve the loss of human rights, while in Russia the 
old view is still in full force, and these crimes are regarded as the 
most heinous of all. One would have thought that so important 
a fact as the transformation of man from an independent being 
fully possessed of rights into passive material for punitary exercises 
must depend upon some objective reason or determining principle, 
the same for all times and at all places. In fact, however, it 
appears that in order to change from a person into a thing, man 
must in one country commit a simple murder ; in another, a 
murder with aggravating circumstances ; in the third, some 
political crime, etc. 

The extremely unsatisfactory condition of this important 
question, the frivolous attitude to the life and destiny of men are 
revolting to the intellect and conscience, and produce a reaction 
of the moral feeling. Unfortunately, however, this reaction 
leads many moralists to the opposite extreme, and induces them 
to reject the idea of punishment in general, i.e. in the sense 
of real opposition to crime. According to this modern doctrine, 
violence or compulsion towards any one is never permissible, and 
therefore the criminal may only be dealt with by rational persua- 
sion. The merit of this doctrine is the moral purity of its pur- 
pose ; its defect is that the purpose cannot be realised in the way 
advocated. The principle of taking up a passive attitude towards 
criminals not only rejects retribution and intimidation (which is 
the right thing to do), but also excludes measures intended to 


prevent crimes and to improve criminals. From this point of 
view the state has not the right to lock up, even only for a time, 
a vicious murderer, though the circumstances of the case make 
it clear that he will continue his crimes ; nor has it a right to 
place the criminal in a more normal environment, even if it 
were exclusively for his own good. Similarly, it is contended 
that a private person has no right forcibly to detain a would-be 
murderer from rushing at his victim, but may only address him 
with words of exhortation. In criticising the theory 1 will con- 
sider this instance of individual opposition to crime, as it is more 
simple and fundamental. 

It is only in extremely rare, exceptional cases that men who 
are depraved and capable of deliberate crime are affected by words 
of rational persuasion. To ascribe beforehand such exceptional 
power to one's own words would be morbid self-conceit ; to be 
content with words without being certain of their success when a 
man's life is at stake would be inhuman. The victim has a right 
to all the help we can render him, and not to verbal intercession 
only, which, in the vast majority of cases, can be nothing but 
comical. In the same way, the aggressor has a right to all the 
help we can give to restrain him from a deed which is for him 
even a greater disaster than for his victim. Only after having 
stopped his action can we with calm conscience address words of 
exhortation to him. If I see the criminal's arm raised to murder 
his victim and I seize hold of it, will this be a case of immoral 
violence ? It will no doubt be violence, but so far from being 
immoral, it will be conscientiously binding^ and will directly follow 
from the demands of the moral principle. In restraining a man 
from murder I actively respect and support his human dignity, 
which is seriously menaced by his carrying out his intention. It 
would be strange to believe that the very fact of such violence — 
i.e. a certain contact of the muscles of my arm with the muscles 
of the murderer's arm, and the necessary consequences of the 
contact — contains an element of immorality. Why, in that case 
it would be immoral to pull a drowning man out of water, for it 
too cannot be done without much physical exertion and some 
physical pain to the person who is being saved. If it is per- 
missible and a moral duty to pull a drowning man out of the 
water, even if he resists, it is all the more permissible to pull a 


criminal away from his victim, even if it means bruises, scratches, 
and dislocations.^ 

It must be one or the other. Either the criminal whom we 
restrain has not yet lost all human feeling, and then he will, of 
course, be grateful for having been saved in time from sin — no less 
than the drowning man is grateful for having been taken out of the 
water ; in that case, the violence which he suffered was done with 
his own tacit consent, and his right has not been violated, so that, 
strictly speaking, there has been no violence at all, since volenti 
non fit injuria.^ Or the criminal has lost human feeling to such 
an extent that he is annoyed at having been prevented from cut- 
ting his victim's throat. But to address a man in such a condi- 
tion with words of rational persuasion would be the height of 
absurdity ; it would be the same as preaching to one who is dead- 
drunk the advantages of abstinence, instead of pouring cold water 
over him. 

Were the fact of physical violence, i.e. of the application of 
muscular force, in itself bad or immoral, it would, of course, be 
wrong to use this bad means even with the best of intentions — it 
would be admitting the immoral rule that the purpose justifies the 
means. To resist evil by evil is wrong and useless ; to hate the 
evil-doer for his crime and therefore to revenge oneself on him is 
childish. But there is no evil in restraining the evil-doer from 
crime for the sake of his own good and without any hatred of 
him. Since there is nothing bad in muscular force as such, the 
moral or the immoral character of its application depends in each 
case upon the intention of the person and the circumstances of 
the case. Physical force rationally used for the real good of others, 
both moral and material, is a good and not a bad means, and such 
application of it, so far from being forbidden, is directly prescribed 
by the moral principle. The dividing line between the moral 
and immoral use of physical compulsion may be a fine one, but it 
is perfectly clear and definite. The whole point is the attitude 

1 What, however, if in restraining the murderer we may in the struggle unintentionally 
cause him grave injuries and even death ? It will be a great misfortune for us, and we 
will grieve over it as over an iwaiuntary sin ; but, in any case, unintentionally to kill a 
criminal is a lesser sin than deliberately to allow an intentional murder of an innocent 

^ 'There is no injury to the willing,' i.e. an action which is in accordance with the 
will of the person who suffers it cannot be a violation of his right. 


we take towards the evil-doer in resisting evil. If we retain a 
human, moral relation to him and are thinking of his own good, 
there will obviously be nothing immoral in our enforced violence — 
no trace of cruelty or revenge. The violence will, in that case, 
be simply an inevitable condition of our helping the man, just 
like a surgical operation or the locking up of a dangerous lunatic. 

The moral principle forbids to make a human being merely 
a means to extraneous purposes, i.e. to ends which do not include 
his own good. If, therefore, in resisting crime we regard the 
criminal simply as a means for the defence or the satisfaction of 
the injured person or society, our action is immoral, even though 
its motive might be unselfish pity for the victim and genuine 
anxiety for public safety. From the moral point of view this is 
not sufficient. We ought to pity both the victim and the criminal ; 
and if we do so, if we really have the good of them both in view, 
reason and conscience will tell us what measure and what form 
of physical compulsion is necessary. 

Moral questions are finally decided by conscience, and I 
confidently ask every one to turn to his own inner experience 
(imaginary, if there has not been any other) and say in which 
of the two cases does conscience reproach us more : in the case 
when, being able to prevent a crime we had callously passed by, 
saying a few useless words, or when we had actually prevented it 
even at the expense of inflicting certain physical injuries. Every 
one understands that in z perfect society there must be no compulsion 
at all. But the perfection has yet to be attained ; and it is quite 
obvious that to let evil and irrational men exterminate, unhindered, 
the normal people is not the right method of creating the perfect 
society. What is desirable is the organisation of the good, and 
not the freedom of evil. " But," the modern sophists will urge, 
"society has often taken for evil what afterwards proved to be a 
good, and has persecuted innocent men as criminals ; therefore 
legal justice is worth nothing, and all compulsion must be given 
up." This argument is not my invention — ^I have read and heard 
it many times. Reasoning in this way we should have to say that 
the mistakes in the astronomical theories of Ptolemy are a 
sufficient ground for giving up astronomy, and that the errors of 
the alchemists prove chemistry to be worthless. 

It is difficult to understand how men of a different stamp from 


obvious sophists can defend so poor a doctrine. The truth is, I 
think, that its real foundation is mystical and not ethical. The 
idea underlying the doctrine seems to be this : " That which seems 
to us to be evil, may not be evil at all ; the Deity or Providence 
knows better than we do the true connection of things and the 
way to produce real good out of apparent evil. We can only know 
and judge our own inner states and not the objective signifi- 
cance and consequences of our own and other people's actions." 
It must be confessed that to a religious mind this view is 
extremely attractive ; nevertheless, it is a mistaken view. The 
truth of a theory is tested by the fact whether it can be con- 
sistently carried out. without landing us in contradictions and 
absurdities. The view in question cannot bear this test. If our 
ignorance of all the objective consequences of our own and other 
people's actions were a sufficient ground for remaining inactive, 
we ought not to resist our own passions and evil impulses. For 
aught we know, the all- merciful Providence might derive 
wonderful results from a person's profligacy, drunkenness, ill- 
feeling to his neighbours, etc. 

Suppose, for instance, that for motives of abstinence a man 
stayed away from a public-house. But had he not resisted his 
inclination and gone, he would on his way back have found a 
half-frozen puppy. Being in a condition when one is incHned 
to be sentimental, he would have picked up the puppy and warmed 
it back to life. The puppy, upon growing up into a big dog, would 
have saved a little girl from drowning in the pond ; and the little 
girl would eventually become the mother of a great man. Now, 
however, the misplaced abstinence has interfered with the plans 
of Providence. The puppy was frozen, the little girl drowned, 
and the great man is doomed to remain for ever unborn. Another 
person, given to anger, felt inclined to slap in the face the man 
he was arguing with, but thought that this would be wrong, and 
restrained himself. And yet, had he not controlled his anger, the 
injured person would have taken the opportunity to turn him the 
other cheek, and would have thus softened the heart of the 
aggressor. Virtue would have doubly triumphed, while, as it was, 
their meeting ended in nothing. 

The doctrine which absolutely rejects all forcible resistance to 
evil, or all defence of one's neighbours by means of physical force. 


is really based upon an argument of this nature. A man has 
saved another's life by using force and disarming the brigand who 
attacked him. But, later on, the person saved became a terrible 
malefactor, far worse than the brigand ; therefore it would have 
been better not to have saved him. Exactly the same disappoint- 
ment, however, might ensue if the man were threatened by a 
rabid wolf instead of by a brigand. Does it follow, then, that 
we are not to defend any one even from wild beasts ? Besides, 
when I save people in a fire or in an inundation, it may very 
well happen that the saved may subsequently be extremely un- 
happy or prove to be terrible scoundrels, so that it would have 
been better for them to have been burnt or drowned. Does it 
follow that one ought not to help any one in any calamity whatso- 
ever ? Actively helping one's neighbours is a direct and positive 
demand of morality. If we renounce the duty of kindness on the 
ground that actions inspired by that feeling may have bad con- 
sequences unknown to us, we can just as well for the same reason 
renounce the duty of abstinence and all others, because these, too, 
may prompt us to actions which may lead to evil consequences, 
as in the examples cited above. If, however, that which appears 
to us to be good leads to evil, then, vice versa, that which appears 
to us to be evil may lead to good. Perhaps, then, the best plan 
would be to do evil straight away in order that good might ensue. 
Fortunately, this whole line of thought is self-destructive, for the 
series of unknown events may go further than we think. Take 
the first instance, in which Mr. X., by resisting his inclination 
for strong drink, indirectly prevented the birth of a great man. 
We cannot tell whether this great man would not have caused 
great disasters to humanity ; and if he would, it is just as well 
that he has not been born ; therefore Mr. X. did very well in 
making himself stay at home. In the same way, we do not 
know what further consequences might ensue from the triumph 
of virtue due to a slap in the face magnanimously endured. It is 
highly probable that this extreme magnanimity would eventually 
lead to spiritual pride, which is the worst of all sins, and thus 
ruin the man's soul. Therefore Mr. Y. did well in controlling 
his anger and preventing the magnanimity of his opponent from 
showing itself. Altogether, since we know nothing for certain, 
we have equal right to make all sorts of suppositions with regard 


to possibilities. But it by no means follows that because we do 
not know what consequences our actions may lead to, we 
ought to refrain from all action. This conclusion would only 
be correct if we knew for certain that the consequences would 
be bad. Since, however, they may equally be good or bad, 
we have equal ground (or, rather, equal absence of ground) for 
action or inaction. All these reflections on the indirect results of 
our actions can then have no practical significance. They could 
be a real determining force in our life only if we could know 
more than the immediate links in the series of consequences. 
The immediate links may be always supposed to be followed by 
further links of an opposite character and destructive of our con- 
clusion. It would therefore be necessary to know the whole series 
of consequences down to the end of the world, which is impossible 
for us. 

Our actions or refusal to act must then be determined, not by 
the consideration of their possible indirect consequences unknown 
to us, but by impulses directly following from the positive demands 
of the moral principle. This is true not only from the ethical 
but also from the mystical point of view. If everything be referred 
back to Providence, it is certainly not without Its knowledge that 
man possesses reason and conscience, which tell him in each 
concrete case what direct good he can do, independently of all 
indirect consequences. And if we believe in Providence, we 
certainly believe also that It cannot allow that actions conformable 
to reason and conscience' should ultimately lead to evil. If we 
know that it is immoral or opposed to human dignity to stupefy 
oneself with strong drink, our conscience will not permit us to 
consider whether in the state of intoxication we might not do 
something which would subsequently lead to good results. 
Similarly, if from a purely moral motive, apart from any malice or 
revenge, we prevented a brigand from killing a man, it will 
never occur to us to argue that this may perhaps lead to some evil, 
and that it might have been better to let the murder take place. 

Through our reason and conscience we know for certain that 
carnal passions — drunkenness or profligacy — are bad in themselves 
and ought to be restrained. The same reason and conscience tell 
us with equal certainty that active love is good in itself and that 
one must act in the spirit of it — to help our neighbours, to defend 



them from the elements, from wild beasts, and also from men 
who are evil or insane. Therefore the man who from a pure 
impulse of pity snatches away the knife from a would-be 
murderer's hand and thus saves him from an extra sin and his 
victim from a violent death, or the man who uses physical 
violence to prevent a patient ill with delirium tremens from freely 
running about the streets, will always be justified by his own con- 
science and by the universal verdict of humanity as one who 
carried out in practice the moral demand : Help all as much as in 
thee lies. 

Providence certainly extracts good from our evil, but from 
our good it derives a still greater good. And what is of especial 
importance is that this second kind of good comes about with 
our direct and active participation, while the first, that derived 
from our evil, does not concern us nor belong to us. It is better 
to be a helper than a dead instrument of the all- merciful 


Punishment as intimidating revenge (the typical instance of 
which is capital punishment) cannot from the moral point of view 
be justified, for it denies the criminal his human character, deprives 
him of the right of existence which belongs to every person, and 
makes him a passive instrument of other people's safety. No 
more, however, can we justify from the moral point of view an 
indifferent attitude to crime, the attitude of not resisting it. It 
does not take into account the right of the injured party to be 
protected nor the right of the whole society to a secure existence, 
and makes everything depend upon the arbitrary will of the worst 
people. The moral principle demands real resistance to crimes, 
and determines this resistance (or punishment in the wide sense of 
the term, as distinct from the idea of retribution) as a rightful 
means of active pity, legally and forcibly limiting the external expres- 
sions of evil will, not merely for the sake of the safety of the peaceful 
members of society, but also in the interests of the criminal himself. 
Thus the true conception of punishment is many-sided, but 
each aspect is equally conditioned by the universal moral 
principle of pity, which includes both the injured and the 


injurer. The victim of a crime has a right to protection and, 
as far as possible, to compensation ; society has a right to safety ; 
the criminal has a right to correction and reformation. Resistance 
to crimes that is to be consistent with the moral principle must 
realise or, at any rate, aim at an equal realisation of those three 

Protection of individuals, public safety, and the subsequent good 
of the criminal, demand in the first place that the person guilty of 
a crime should be for a time deprived of liberty. In the interests 
of his relatives and his own, a spendthrift is rightly deprived of 
freedom in the administration of his property. It is all the more 
just and necessary that a murderer or a seducer should be deprived 
of freedom in his line of activity. For the criminal himself 
deprivation of freedom is especially important as a pause in the 
development of the evil will, as an opportunity to bethink himself 
and repent. 

At the present time, the criminal's fate is finally decided by the 
court, which both determines his guilt and decrees his punishment. 
If, however, the motives of revenge and intimidation are consistently 
banished from penal law, the conception of punishment as of a 
measure determined beforehand and, in truth, arbitrarily^ must 
disappear also. The consequences of the crime for the criminal 
must stand in a natural and inner relation with his real condition. 
The law court, having established the fact of guilt, must then 
determine its nature, the degree of the criminal's responsibility and 
of his further danger to society, that is, it must make a diagnosis 
and a prognosis of the moral disease. But it, is opposed to reason to 
prescribe unconditionally the means and the length of the period of 
treatment. The course and the methods of treatment must differ 
according to the changes in the course of the illness, and the court 
must leave this to penitentiary institutions, into the hands of which 
the criminal should pass. A short time ago this idea would have 
been thought an unheard-of heresy, but of late attempts have been 
made to realise it in a few countries {e.g. in Belgium and Ireland), 
in which conditional sentences may be passed. In certain cases the 
criminal is sentenced to a definite punishment, but undergoes it 
only if he repeats his crime. If he does not, he remains free, and his 
first crime is regarded as accidental. In other cases, the sentence 
is conditional with regard to the length of imprisonment, which 


may be shortened according to the subsequent behaviour of the 
criminal. From the point of view of principle these conditional 
sentences are an advance of enormous importance. 


There had been a time when men suffering from mental disease 
were treated like wild beasts, chained, beaten, etc. Less than a 
hundred years ago it was considered to be the right thing ; but 
now we remember it with horror. Since the rate of progress is 
continually increasing, I hope to live to a time when prisons and 
penal servitude of the present day will be looked upon in the same 
way as we now look upon the old-feshioned asylums with iron 
cages for the patients. Although the penal system has undoubtedly 
progressed of late, it is still largely determined by the old idea of 
punishment as torment deliberately inflicted on the criminal, in 
accordance with the principle, ' The thief deserves all he gets.' 

In the true conception of punishment its positive end, so far as 
the criminal is concerned, is not to cause him physical pain, but to 
heal or reform him morally. This idea has been accepted long 
ago (chiefly by theologians, partly by philosophers, and by a very 
few jurists), but it calls forth strong opposition on the part of 
jurists and of a certain school of anthropologists. From the legal 
side it is urged that to correct the criminal means to intrude upon 
his inner life, which the state and society have no right to do. 
There are two misconceptions involved here. In the first place, 
the task of reformingcriminals is, in the respect we are here con- 
sidering, merely an instance of the positive influence which the 
society (or the state) ought to exert upon such members of it as 
are in some respects deficient, and therefore not fully possessed of 
rights. If such influence is rejected on principle as intrusion into 
the individual's inner life, it will be necessary to reject also public 
education of children, treatment of lunatics in public asylums, etc. 

And in what sense can it be said to be an intrusion into the 
inner world ? In truth, by the feet of his crime the criminal has 
hared or exposed his inner world, and is in need of influence in the 
opposite direction which would enable him once more to withdraw 
into the normal boundaries. It is particularly surprising that 
although the argument recognises the right of society to put a 


man into demoralising conditions (such as our present prisons and 
penal servitude, which the jurists do not reject), it denies the right 
and the duty of society to put him into conditions that might 
render him moral. 

The second misunderstanding consists in imagining that 
reformation of the criminal means forcing upon him ready-made 
principles of morality. But why regard incompetence as a 
principle ? When a criminal is capable of reformation at all, it 
consists, of course, chiefly in self-reformation. External influences 
must simply put the man into conditions most favourable for it, 
help him and support him in this inner work. 

The anthropological argument is that criminal tendencies are 
innate and therefore incorrigible. That there exist born criminals 
and hereditary criminals, there is no doubt. That some of them 
are incorrigible it is difficult to deny. But the statement that all 
criminals or even the majority of them are incorrigible is absolutely 
arbitrary and does not deserve to be dwelt upon. If, however, all 
we may admit is that some criminals are incorrigible, no one can or 
has a right to be certain beforehand that this particular criminal 
belongs to that group. All therefore ought to be put into con- 
ditions most favourable for possible reformation. The first and 
the most important condition is, of course, that at the head of penal 
institutions should stand men capable of so high and difficult a 
task — the best of jurists, alienists, and men with a religious calling. 

Public guardianship over the criminal, entrusted to competent 
persons with a view to his possible reformation, — this is the only 
conception of ' punishment ' or positive resistance to crime 
compatible with the moral principle. A penal system based upon 
it will be more just and humane than the present one, and will, at 
the same time, be certainly more efficient. 




If individuals and nations learnt to value the national peculiarities 
of foreign peoples as much as they value their own ; if within 
each nation individual criminals were, as fer as possible, reformed 
by re-education and rational guardianship, from which all 
vestige of legal ferocity were eliminated, — this moral solution 
of the national and the penal questions would still leave 
untouched an important cause both of national hostility and of 
criminality, namely, the economic cause. The chief reason 
why Americans hate the Chinese is certainly not that the 
Chinese wear plaits and follow the moral teaching of Confucius, 
but that they are dangerous rivals in the economic sphere. 
Chinese labourers in California are persecuted for the same 
cause for which Italians are ill-treated in southern France, 
Switzerland, and Brazil. In exactly the same way the feeling 
against the Jews, whatever the inmost causes of it may be, 
clearly rests upon and is obviously due to economic considera- 
tions. Individual criminality is not created by environment, but 
it is largely kept up and encouraged by pauperism, excessive 
mechanical labour, and the inevitable coarsening that follows 
therefrom. The influence of the most rational and humane 
penal system upon individual criminals would have but little 
general effect so long as these conditions prevailed. The bad 
effect of the economic conditions of the present day upon the 
national and the criminal questions is obviously due to the fact 
that these conditions are in themselves morally wrong. Their 
abnormality is manifested in the economic sphere itsqlf, since 



the struggle between the different classes of society for the 
possession of material goods is becoming more and more acute, 
and in many countries of Western Europe and America 
threatens to become a deadly strife. 

For a man who takes the moral point of view it is as im- 
possible to take part in this socially-economic struggle as to 
participate in the hostility between races and nations. But 
at the same time it is impossible for him to remain indifferent 
to the material position of his neighbours. If the elementary 
moral feeling of pity, which has received its highest sanction 
in the Gospel, demands that we should feed the hungry, 
give drink to the thirsty, and warm the cold, this demand 
does not, of course, lose its force when the cold and hungry 
number millions instead of dozens. And if alone I cannot 
help these millions, and am not therefore morally bound to do 
so, I can and must help them together with others. My personal 
duty becomes a collective one — it still remains my own, although 
it becomes wider in so far as I participate in the collective whole 
and its universal task. The very fact of economic distress proves 
that economic conditions are not connected with the principle 
of the good as they should be, that they are not morally organised. 
A whole pseudo-scientific school of conservative anarchists in 
economics directly denied, and still denies, though without the 
old self-confidence, all ethical principles and all organisation in 
the sphere of economic relations. The prevalence of this school 
had much to do with the birth of revolutionary anarchism. On 
the other hand, the many varieties of socialism, both radical and 
conservative, do more to detect the presence of the disease than 
to offer a real cure for it. 

The defect of the orthodox school of political economy — the 
liberal or, more exactly, the anarchical school — is that it separates 
on principle the economic sphere from the moral. The defect 
of socialism is that it more or less confuses or wrongly identifies 
these two distinct, though indivisible, spheres. 


All practical affirmation of a thing apart from its due 
connection or correlation with everything else is essentially 


immoral. To affirm a particular, conditional, and relative 
activity as a thing by itself, as absolutely independent and self- 
contained, is wrong in theory and immoral in practice, and can 
lead to nothing but disaster and sin. 

To regard man as merely an economic agent — a producer, 
owrner, and consumer of material goods — is a wrong and immoral 
point of view. These functions have in themselves no significance 
for man, and do not in any way express his essential nature and 
worth. Productive labour, possession and enjoyment of its 
results, is one of the aspects of human life or one of the spheres 
of human activity. The truly human interest lies only in the 
feet as to how and with what object man acts in this particular 
domain. Free play of chemical processes can only take place in 
a corpse ; in a living body these processes are connected and 
determined by organic purposes. Similarly, free play of economic 
factors and laws is only possible in a community that is dead 
and is decomposing, while in a living community that has a 
future, economic elements are correlated with and determined 
by moral ends. To proclaim laissez /aire, laissez passer is to say 
to society ' die and decompose.' 

No doubt economic relations as a whole are based upon 
a simple and ultimate fact, which cannot as such be deduced 
from the moral principle — the fact, namely, that work, labour, 
is necessary to the maintenance of life. There has never 
been, however, a stage in the life of humanity at which this 
material necessity was not complicated by moral considerations 
— not even at the very lowest stage. Necessity compels the 
half-brutal savage to procure means of livelihood ; but in doing 
so he may either think of himself alone or include in his need 
the need of his mate and his young. If the hunt has been 
unsuccessful he can either share his scarce booty with them, 
hardly satisfying his own hunger, or can take everything for 
himself, leaving them to fare as best they can ; or, finally, he 
may kill them so as to satisfy his hunger with their flesh. 
Whichever course he adopts, even the most orthodox devotee 
of political economy would not be likely to ascribe his action to 
the effect of inexorable economic ' laws.' 

The necessity to work in order to obtain the means of liveli- 
hood is indeed a matter of fate and is independent of human will. 


But it is merely an impetus which spurs man to activity, the 
further course of that activity being determined by psychological 
and moral, and not by economic, causes. When social structure 
becomes somewhat more complex, not only the distribution of 
the products of labour and the manner of enjoying them, or 
' consumption,' but the labour itself is determined by motives 
other than those of physical need — motives which have no element 
of compulsion or natural necessity about them. It is sufficient to 
name as an instance the most prevalent among them — the greed 
for acquisition and the thirst for pleasure. There is no economic 
law which determines the degree of cupidity or voluptuousness for 
all men, and there is indeed no law that these passions should be 
necessarily inherent in man at all, as inevitable motives of his 
actions. Therefore in so far as economic activities and relations 
are determined by these mental propensities they do not belong to 
the domain of economics and do not obey any ' economic laws ' 
with necessity. 

Take the most elementary and the least disputable of these 
so-called laws, namely, the law that the price of goods is deter- 
mined by the relation between supply and demand. This means 
that the more demand there is for a particular article and the less 
there is of it, the more it costs — and vice versa. 

Suppose, however, that a rich but benevolent trader who has 
a constant supply of some article of the first necessity decides, in 
spite of the increased demand for that article, not to raise his prices 
or even decides to lower them for the good of his needy neigh- 
bours. This will be a violation of the supposed economic ' law,' 
and yet, however unusual the case may be, certainly no one would 
think it impossible or supernatural. 

Let us grant that if everything depended upon the good will of 
private individuals, we might, in the domain of economics, regard 
magnanimous motives as a negligible quantity, and build every- 
thing upon the secure foundation of self-interest. Every society, 
however, has a central government, a necessary function of which 
is to limit private cupidity. There are a good many historical 
instances in which the state made the habitual and — from the 
point of view of self-interest — the natural order of things un- 
natural and unusual, sometimes indeed rendering it altogether 
impossible, and transforming the former exceptions into a universal 


rule. Thus, for instance, in Russia for two and a half centuries 
landowners who set all their serfs free and, in doing so, gave 
them land were the most rare and extraordinary exception, 
the usual order or ' law ' of relations between the landed gentry 
and the peasants being that the latter, together with the land on 
which they lived, were the property of the former. But with 
remarkable completeness and rapidity this universal law was, by 
the good will of the government, made illegal and impossible in 
practice, while the former rare exceptions were transformed into 
an absolutely binding rule, admitting of no exception at all. 
Similarly, the exceptional case of the tradesman who does not put 
up the price of the articles of first necessity with the increase in 
demand, becomes a universal rule as soon as the government 
deems it necessary to regulate the price of goods. Iii that case 
this direct violation of the supposed ' law ' actually becomes law, 
— not a ' natural ' one, but positive law or law of the state. 

It should be noted that notwithstanding the difference between 
the two conceptions of the law of nature and the man-made law 
of the state, the latter resembles the former in that within the 
sphere of its application it has a universal force and admits of no 
unforeseen exception.^ But the alleged economic laws never 
have such a significance and can at any moment be freely violated 
and annulled by the moral will of man. In virtue of the law of 
1 86 1 not a single landowner in Russia may buy or sell peasants 
otherwise than in his dreams. On the other hand, in spite of 
the ' law ' of supply and demand, nothing prevents any virtuous 
Petersburg landlord, even when fully awake, from lowering the 
rent of his flats out of philanthropic motives. The fact that only 
a very few take the opportunity of doing so, proves not the power 
of the economic factors, but the weakness of individual virtue. 
For as soon as this lack of personal benevolence is supplanted by 
the demand of the law of the state, rents will be immediately 
lowered, and the ' iron ' necessity of economic laws will at once 
prove to be as fragile as glass. This self-evident truth is at the 
present time admitted by writers altogether foreign to socialism, 
such as Laveleye, for instance. In earlier days, J. S. Mill, anxious 
to preserve to political economy the character of an exact science 

' Direct violation of the law by the evil will is foreseen by the law itself and i> 
treated as a crime which calls forth a corresponding punishment. 


and at the same time to avoid too obvious a contradiction vtrith 
reality, invented the following compromise. Admitting that the 
economic distribution of the products of labour depends upon the 
human will and may be subordinated to moral purposes, he in- 
sisted that the production is entirely determined by economic laws 
which have in this case the force of the laws of nature — as if 
production did not take place in the same general conditions and 
depend upon the same human powers and agents as distribution ! 
This anti-scientific and scholastic distinction met, indeed, with 
no success, and was equally rejected by both opposed camps, which 
Mill had sought to reconcile by means of it. 

Freedom of the individual and society from the supposed 
natural laws of the materially-economic order stands, of course, in 
no immediate connection with the metaphysical question of free- 
will. When I say, e.g., that Petersburg landlords are free from 
the supposed law which determines the price by the relation of 
.supply and demand, I am far from maintaining that any one of 
these landlords whatever his character may he can at any given 
moment lower the rent of his flats in spite of the increased demand 
for them. I only urge the obvious truth that given a sufficiently 
strong- moral impulse, ho alleged economic necessity can prevent 
the individual, especially in his public capacity, from subordinating 
material considerations to the moral in this or in that instance. 
Hence it logically follows that in the realm of economics there 
exist no natural laws acting independently of the individual will 
of the given agents. I do not deny the presence of law in human 
activity ; I only argue against a special kind of materially-economic 
necessity invented a hundred years ago, and taken to be inde- 
pendent of the general conditions that determine volition through 
psychological and moral motives. The character of objects and 
events which fall within the province of economics is on the one 
hand due to physical nature, and is therefore subject to material 
necessity (to the mechanical, chemical, and biological laws), and 
on the other hand is determined by human activity, which is subject 
to the moral and psychological necessity. And since no further 
causality, in addition to the natural and the human, can be found 
in the phenomena of the economic order, it follows that there can 
be in that domain no independent necessity and uniformity of 
its own. 


It has been pointed out that the lack of moral initiative in 
private individuals is successfully supplemented by state legislation, 
vj^hich regulates economic relations in the moral sense with a view 
to the common good. Reference to this fact does not prejudge the 
question as to the extent to which such regulation may be desirable 
in the future and as to the form it should take. Of one thing 
only there can be no doubt : the very fact of state interference 
in the domain of economics {e.g. the legislative regulation of prices) 
unmistakably proves that the given economic relations do not 
express any natural necessity. For it is clear that laws of nature 
could not be cancelled by laws of the state. 


Subordination of material interests and relations in human 
society to some special economic laws acting on their own account 
is the fiction of a bad metaphysic, and has not the least foundation 
in reality. Therefore the general demand of reason and con- 
science remains in force — the demand, namely, that this province 
too should be subordinated to the supreme principle of morality, 
and that in its economic life society should be the organised 
realisation of the good. 

There are not and there cannot be any independent economic 
laws, any economic necessity, for economic phenomena can only 
be thought of as activities of man who is a moral being, and is 
capable of subordinating all his actions to the pure idea of the 
good. There is only one absolute and independent law for man 
as such — the moral law, and only one necessity, namely, the moral. 
The peculiarity and independence of the economic sphere of rela- 
tions lies, not in the fact that it has ultimate laws of its own, but 
in the fact that from its very nature it presents a special and pecu- 
liar field for the application of the one moral law. Thus earth 
differs from other planets, not by having an independent source of 
light all to itself, but by receiving and reflecting the one universal 
light of the sun in a special and definite way, dependent upon its 
place in the solar system. 

This truth is fatal both to the theories of the orthodox 
economists and to the socialist doctrine which seems at first sight 
to be opposed to them. When the socialists denounce the exist- 


ing economic system and declaim against the unequal distribution 
of property, the cupidity and callousness of the rich, they appear 
to adopt the moral point of view, and to be inspired by the good 
feeling of pity towards those who labour and are heavy laden. 
The positive side of their doctrine, however, clearly shows that 
they take up, to begin with, an ambiguous and, subsequently, a 
directly hostile attitude to the moral principle. 

The inmost essence of socialism has for the first time found 
expression in the remarkable doctrine of the followers of St. 
Simon, who proclaimed as their motto the rehabilitation of 
matter in the life of humanity. There is no doubt that matter 
has its rights, and the less they are respected in principle the 
more they assert themselves in practice. The nature of these 
rights, however, may be interpreted in two different and, indeed, 
directly contradictory ways. According to the first meaning — a 
perfectly true and an extremely important one — the sphere of 
material relations (more immediately of the economic ones) has a 
right to become the object of man's moral activity. It has a 
right to have the supreme spiritual principle realised or incarnate 
in it — matter has a right to be spiritualised. It would be unjust 
to maintain that this meaning was entirely foreign to the early 
socialistic systems. But they did not dwell upon it or develop 
it, and very soon this glimmer of a higher consciousness proved 
to be merely a deceptive light over the quagmire of carnal passions 
which gradually sucked in so many noble and inspired minds. 

The other and more prevalent meaning given to the principle 
of the rehabilitation of matter justifies the degradation of the St. 
Simonists, and indeed makes it into a principle. The material life 
of humanity is not regarded as merely a special province of human 
activity or of the application of the moral principles. It is said 
to have an entirely independent material principle of its own, 
existing in its own right both in and for man, namely, the 
principle of instinct or passion. This element must be given 
full scope so that the normal social order should naturally follow 
from personal passions and interests supplementing and replacing 
one another (Fourier's fundamental conception). This 'normal' 
order neither need nor can be moral. Alienation from the higher 
spiritual interests becomes, inevitable as soon as the material 
side of human life is recognised to have an independent and 


unconditional value. One cannot serve two masters ; and social- 
ism naturally gives predominance to the principle under the banner 
of which the whole movement had first originated, i.e. to the 
material principle. The domain of economic relations is entirely 
subordinated to it, and is recognised as the chief, the fundamental, 
the only real and decisive factor in the life of humanity. At this 
point the inner opposition between socialism and the bourgeois 
political economy disappears. 

In truth, the morally abnormal condition of the civilised world 
at the present day is due, not to this or that particular institution, 
but to the general conception and trend of life in modern society. 
Material wealth is becoming all-important, and social structure 
itself is distinctly degenerating into a plutocracy. It is not 
personal and hereditary property, division of labour and capital, 
or inequality of material possessions that is immoral. What is 
immoral is plutocracy, which distorts the true social order, raising 
the lower and the essentially subservient factor — the economic 
one — to the supreme and dominant position, and relegating all 
other things to be the means and instruments of material gain. 
Socialism leads to a similar distortion, though in a different way. 
From the plutocratic point of view the normal man is in the first 
place a capitalist and then, per accidens, a citizen, head of a family, 
an educated man, member of some religious union, etc. Similarly 
from the socialist point of view all other interests become in- 
significant and retreat into the background — if they don't disappear 
altogether — before the economic interest. In socialism, too, the 
essentially lower, material sphere of life — the industrial activity 
— becomes decidedly predominant and overshadows all else. Even 
in its most idealistic forms socialism has from the first insisted 
that the moral perfection of society wholly and directly depends 
upon its economic structure, and sought to attain moral reforma- 
tion or regeneration exclusively by means of an economic revolu- 
tion. This fact clearly shows that socialism really stands on the 
same ground as the bourgeois regime hostile to it, namely, the 
supremacy of the material interest. Both have the same motto : 
' man liveth by bread alone.' For a plutocrat the worth of man 
depends upon his possessing or being capable of acquiring material 
wealth. For a consistent socialist the worth of man depends upon 
his producing material wealth. In both cases man is taken as an 


economic agent, apart from other aspects of his being. In 
both cases economic welfare is taken to be the final end and 
the highest good. The struggle between the two hostile camps 
is not one of principle ; or, rather, the struggle is waged, not about 
the content of a principle, but only about the extent of its realisa- 
tion. One party is concerned with the material welfere of the 
capitalist minority, and the other with the also material welfare of 
the labour majority. And in so far as that majority, the working 
classes themselves, begin to care exclusively about their material 
welfare they obviously prove to be as selfish as their adversaries, 
and lose all moral advantage over the latter. In certain respects 
indeed socialism applies the principle of material interest more 
fully and consistently than its opponents. Although plutocracy 
really cares for the economic interest alone, it admits the existence, 
though in a subordinate sense only, of other spheres of life, with 
independent institutions — such as the state and the Church — cor- 
responding to them. Socialism in its pure form, however, rejects 
all this. For it man is exclusively a producer and consumer, and 
human society is merely an economic union — a union of work- 
men proprietors involving no substantial distinctions. And 
since the predominance of the material interests — of the economic, 
industrial and financial elements — constitutes the character- 
istic feature of the bourgeois r6gime, consistent socialism which 
intends finally to limit the life of humanity to these lower in- 
terests alone is certainly not an antithesis to, but the extreme ex- 
pression, the crowning stage of the one-sided bourgeois civilisation. 
Socialists and their apparent opponents — the plutocrats — un- 
consciously join hands on the most essential point. Plutocracy 
subjugates the masses of the people to its own selfish interests, 
disposes of them to its own advantage, for it regards them merely 
as labour, as producers of material wealth. Socialism protests 
against such 'exploiting,' but its protest is superficial and is 
not based upon principles, since socialism itself in the long-run 
regards man as merely (or in any case as mainly and primarily) an 
economic agent — and if he is only that, there is no inherent reason 
why he should not be exploited. On the other hand, the exclus- 
ive importance which attaches to material wealth, in the com- 
mercial state of the present day, naturally leads those who directly 
produce this wealth, the working classes, to demand an equal 


share in the enjoyment of the goods which, but for them, could 
not exist and which they are brought up to regard as the.'^Ghief 
thing in life. Thus the practical materialism of the ruling classes 
themselves calls forth and justifies socialistic tendencies in^the 
subjugated working classes. And when fear of social revolution 
brings about an insincere conversion of the plutocrats to the ideal- 
istic principles, it proves to be a useless game. The masks of 
morality and religion hastily put on do not deceive the masses, 
who know perfectly well what the true worship of their masters 
is.i And having learnt this cult from their superiors, wcfrking 
people naturally want to be the priests and not the victims. 

The two hostile parties mutually presuppose one another and 
cannot escape from the vicious circle until they acknowledge and 
adopt in practice the unquestionable truth, forgotten by them, 
that the significance of man, and therefore of human society, is 
not essentially determined by economic relations, that man is not 
primarily the producer of material goods or market values, but is 
something infinitely more important, and that consequently society, 
too, is more than an economic union.^ 


For the true solution of the so-called ' social question ' it must 
in the first place be recognised that the economic relations dbn- 
tain no special norm of their own, but are subject to the universal 
moral norm as a special realm in which it finds its application. 
The triple moral principle which determines our due relation to- 
wards God, men, and the material nature is wholly and entirely 

^ A remarkably characteristic specimen of plutocratic hypocrisy is an article by the 
well-known Jules Simon (now deceased) which appeared some years ago without 
attracting notice. The article deals with the three chief evils of modern society : the 
decline of religion, of family, and of . . . rentes ! The treatment of religion and family 
is dull and vague, but the lines dealing with the fell of interest on capital (from 4 per 
cent to 2^ per cent, if I remember rightly) are written with the blood of the heart. 

' The contention that socialism and plutocracy are based upon one and the same 
materialistic principle was put forward by me eighteen years ago (in chapter xiv. of the 
Kritika otvletchmnih natchal (^Critique of Abstract Principles), first published in the Russky 
Fiestnik in 1878) and led my critics to accuse me of having a wrong conception of 
socialism and of misjudging its value. I need no longer answer these criticisms, for 
they have been brilliantly disproved by the history of the socialistic movement itself, 
the main current of which has decidedly evinced itself as ecmomicr materialism. 


applicable in the domain of economics. The peculiar character of 
the economic relations gives a special importance to the last member 
of the moral trinity, namely, the relation to the material nature 
or earth (in the wide sense of the term). This third relation can 
only have a moral character if it is not isolated from the first two 
but is conditioned by them in their normal position. 

The realm of economic relations is exhaustively described by 
the general ideas of production (labour and capital), distribution of 
property, and exchange of values. Let us consider these funda- 
mental ideas from the moral point of view, beginning with the 
most fundamental of them — the idea of labour. We know that 
the first impulse to labour is given by the material necessity. 
But for a man who recognises above himself the absolutely 
perfect principle of reality, or the will of God, all necessity is an 
expression of that will. From this point of view labour is a 
commandment of God. This commandment requires us to 
work hard ( ' in the sweat of thy face ' ) to cultivate the 
ground, i.e.. to perfect material nature. For whose sake ? In 
the first place for our own and that of our neighbours. This 
answer, clear at the most elementary stages of moral develop- 
ment, no doubt remains in force as humanity progresses, the 
only change being that the denotation of the term ' neighbour ' 
becomes more and more wide. Originally my neighbours were 
only those to whom I was related by the blood tie or by personal 
feeling ; finally it is all mankind. When Bastiat, the most 
gifted representative of economic individualism, advocated the 
principle ' each for himself he defended himself against the charge 
of selfishness by pointing to the economic harmony in virtue of 
which each man in working solely for himself (and his family), 
unconsciously, from the very nature of social relations, works 
also for the benefit of all, so that the interest of each harmonises 
in truth with the interest of all. In any case, however, this 
would be merely a natural harmony, similar to that which 
obtains in the non-human world where certain insects, seeking 
nothing but sweet food for themselves, unconsciously bring 
about the fertilisation of plants by transferring the pollen from 
one flower to another. Such harmony testifies, of course, to the 
wisdom of the Creator, but does not make insects into moral 
beings. Man, however, is a moral being and natural solidarity 


is not sufficient for him ; he ought not merely to labour for all 
and participate in the common work, but to know that he does 
so and to wish to do it. Those who refuse to recognise this 
truth as a matter of principle will feel its force as a fact in 
financial smashes and economic crises. Men who are the 
cause of such anomalies and men who are the victims of them, 
both belong to the class of people who work for themselves, 
and yet the natural harmony neither reconciles their interests 
nor secures their prosperity. The merely natural unity of 
economic interests is not sufficient to secure the result that 
each, in working for himself, should also work for all. To 
bring this about economic relations must be consciously directed 
towards the common good. 

To take selfishness or self-interest as the fundamental motive 
of labour means to deprive labour of the significance of a 
universal commandment, to make it into something accidental. 
If I work solely for the sake of my own and my family's welfiire, 
then as soon as I am able to attain that welfare by other means I 
must lose my only motive for work. And if it were proved that a 
whole class or group of persons can prosper by means of robbery, 
fraud, and exploitation of other people's labour, no theoretically 
valid objection could be urged against this from the point of view 
of unrestrained self-interest. Is it for the natural harmony 
of interests to abolish such abuses ? But where was the natural 
harmony in the long ages of slavery, feudalism, serfdom ? Or 
perhaps the fierce intestine wars which abolished feudalism in 
Europe and slavery in America were the expression — though 
somewhat a belated one — of natural harmony ? In that case 
it is difficult to see in what way such harmony difFers from 
disharmony, and in what way the freedom of the guillotine is 
better than the restrictions of state socialism. If, however, 
natural harmony of interests, seriously understood, proves to be 
powerless against economic abuses due to the unrestrained 
selfishness of individuals and classes whose freedom in this 
respect has to be restricted in the name of higher justice, it is 
unfair and unpermissible to appeal to justice in the last resort only, 
and to put it at the end and not at the beginning of social 
structure. In addition to being unfair and unpermissible it 
is also quite useless. For such morality ex machina has no 


power to attract or to inspire. No one will believe in it or be 
restrained by it from anything, and the only thing left will be 
bare compulsion — one day in one direction, and the next in 

When the principle of the individualistic freedom of interests 
is adopted by the strong, it does not make them work more but 
gives rise to the slavery of ancient times, to the seigniorial right of 
the Middle Ages, and to modern economic slavery or plutocracy. 
When adopted by the weak, who, however, are strong as the 
majority, as the masses, this principle of unrestrained selfishness 
does not make them more united in their work, but merely creates 
an atmosphere of envious discontent, which produces in the end the 
bombs of the anarchists. Had Bastiat, who was fond of expressing 
his ideas in the form of popular dialogues, lived to our day, he 
might have played the chief part in the following conversation : 

Anarchist. Out of especial friendliness for you, Mr. Bastiat, I 
warn you take yourself away from here, as far as ever you can — 
I am just going to blow up all this neighbourhood, for there are 
lots of tyrants and exploiters about. 

Bastiat. What a terrible position ! But consider : you are 
doing irreparable damage to the principle of human liberty ! 

Anarchist. On the contrary — we are putting it into practice. 

Bastiat. Who has put these devilish ideas into your mind ? 

Anarchist. You yourself. 

Bastiat. What an absurd slander ! 

Anarchist. It is perfectly true. We are your pupils. Have 
you not proved that the root of all evil is the interference of 
public authority with the free play of individual interests ? Have 
you not ruthlessly condemned all intentional organisation of 
labour, all compulsory social order ? And that which is con- 
demned as evil must be destroyed. We translate your words into 
practice and are saving you from dirty work. 

Bastiat, I struggled only against the interference of the state 
in the economic life, and against the artificial organisation of labour 
advocated by socialists. 

Anarchist. Socialists are no concern of ours j if they are 
deluded by fancies, so much the worse for them. We are not 
deluded. We fight against one organisation only — one which 
really exists and is called social order. Towns and factories, stock 


exchanges and academies, administration, police, army. Church 
— all these did not spring from the ground of themselves j they 
are the product of artificial organisation. Therefore on your own 
premisses they are an evil and ought to be destroyed. 

Bastiat. Even if this were true, things ought not to be 
destroyed by violent and disastrous means. 

Anarchist. What is disaster ? You have yourself beautifully 
explained that apparent calamities lead to the real good of all, and 
you have always very subtly distinguished between the unim- 
portant things that are evident and the important that cannot he 
seen. In the present case what is evident are the flying sardine 
boxes, demolished buildings, disfigured corpses — this is evident 
but unimportant. And that which is not seen and which alone is 
important is the future humanity which will be free from all 
' interference ' and all ' organisation ' — since the persons, classes, 
and institutions which might interfere and organise will be ex- 
terminated. You preached the principle of anarchy, we carry 
out anarchy in practice. 

Bastiat. Policeman ! policeman ! seize him quick before he 
blows us up. What are you thinking about ? 

Policeman. Well, I was wondering whether, from the point 
of view of self-interest, which I too have adopted after reading 
your eloquent arguments, it is of more advantage to me to seize 
this fellow by the scruff of the neck or to make haste and establish 
a natural harmony of interests between us. 


In opposition to the alleged economic harmony, facts compel 
us to admit that starting with private material interest as the 
purpose of labour we arrive at universal discord and destruction 
instead of universal happiness. If, however, the principle and the 
purpose of labour is found in the idea of the common good, under- 
stood in the true moral sense — i.e. as the good of all and each and 
not of the majority only — that idea will also contain the satisfection 
of every private interest within proper limits. 

From the moral point of view every man, whether he be an 
agricultural labourer, a writer, or a banker, ought to work with 
a feeling that his work is useful to all, and with a desire for it 


to be so ; he ought to regard it as a duty, as a fulfilment of the 
law of God and a service to the universal welfare of his fellow-men. 
But just because this duty is universal, it presupposes that every 
one else must regard the person in question in the same way, i.e. 
to treat him not as a means only but as an end or purpose of the 
activity of all. The duty of society is to recognise and to secure 
to each of its members the right to enjoy unmolested worthy human 
existence both for himself and his family. Worthy existence is 
compatible with voluntary poverty, such as St. Francis preached 
and as is practised by our wandering pilgrims ; but it is incompatible 
with work which reduces all the significance of man to being 
simply a means for producing or transferring material wealth. 
Here are some instances. 

" We watch the kriuchniks at work : the poor half-naked Tatars 
strain every nerve. It is painful to see the bent back flatten out 
all of a sudden under a weight of eight to eighteen puds ^ (the 
last figure is not exaggerated). This terrible work is paid at the 
rate of five roubles per thousand puds.^ The most a kriuchnik 
can earn in the twenty-four hours is one rouble, and that if he 
works like- an ox and overstrains himself. Few can endure more 
than ten years of such labour, and the two-legged beasts of burden 
become deformed or paralytic " {Novoe Fremya, N. 7356). Those 
who have not seen the Volga kriuchniks are sure to have seen the 
porters in big hotels who, breathless and exhausted, drag to the 
fourth or fifth floor boxes weighing several hundredweight. And 
this in our age of machines and all sorts of contrivances ! No one 
seems to be struck by the obvious absurdity. A visitor arrives at 
an hotel with luggage. To walk up the stairs would be a useful 
exercise for him, but instead he gets into a lift, while his things, 
for which, one would have thought, the lift was expressly meant, 
are loaded on the back of the porter, who thus proves to be not 
even an instrument of another man but an instrument of his 
things — the means of a means ! 

Labour which is exclusively and crudely mechanical and in- 
volves too great a strain of the muscular force is incompatible with 
human dignity. But equally incompatible with it and equally 
immoral is work which, though in itself not heavy or degrading, 
lasts all day long and takes up all the time and all the forces of 

' 2 J cwt. and 5f cwt. * i6^ tons. 


the person, so that the few hours of leisure are necessarily devoted 
to physical rest, and neither time nor energy is left for thoughts 
and interests of the ideal or spiritual order.^ In addition to hours 
of leisure, there are, of course, entire days of rest — Sundays and 
other holidays. But the exhausting and stupefying physical work 
of the week produces in holiday time a natural reaction — a craving 
to plunge into dissipation and to forget oneself, and the days of 
rest are devoted to the satisfaction of that craving. 

" Let us not, however, dwell on the impression which individual 
facts susceptible of observation produce upon us, even though 
such &cts be numerous. Let us turn to statistics and inquire as 
to how fer wages satisfy the necessary wants of the workers. 
Leaving aside the rate of wages in the different industries, the 
quality of food, the size of the dwelling, etc., we will only ask of 
statistics the question as to the relation between the length of 
human life and the occupation pursued. The answer is as follows : 
Shoemakers live on the average to the age of 49 ; printers, 48.3 ; 
tailors, 46.6 ; joiners, 44.7 ; blacksmiths, 41.8 ; turners, 41.6 ; 
masons, 33. And the average length of life of civil servants, 
capitalists, clergymen, wholesale merchants, is 60-69 years.^ Now 
take the figures referring to the death-rate in relation to the size of 
the dwellings and the amount of rent in the different parts of 
town. It will be seen that in parts of the town with a poor popula- 
tion, belonging chiefly to the working class and paying low rents, 
mortality is far higher than in the neighbourhood with a relatively 
larger number of rich people. For Paris this relation was estab- 
lished by Villarmd as early as the 'twenties of the present century. 
He calculated that during the five years from 1822 to 1826, in 
the 11. arrondissement of Paris, where the average rent per flat 
was 605 francs, there was one death per 71 inhabitants, while in 
the arrondissement XII., where the average rent was 148 francs, 
there was one death per 44 inhabitants. Similar data are to hand 
for many other towns, Petersburg among them.^ Hence the 
following true conclusion is deduced : ' If a workman is not 

' Tram conductorj in Petersburg work more than eighteen hours a day for twenty- 
five or thirty roubles a month (see Novoc Vremya, N. 7357). 

' The author quoted refers here to Hanshofer's book, Lehrbuck dcr Statistik. AU 
the figures quoted are apparently for the countries of Western Europe. 

° A. A. Isaev, NaUhah polititchiskoi cconomii (Prhciples of Political Economy), 2nd 
ed. pp. 2S4-iSS- 


regarded as a means of production, but is recognised, like every 
other human being, to be a free agent and an end in himself, the 
average forty years of life cannot be regarded as normal, while 
men belonging to richer classes live on the average till sixty or 
seventy years. This life, the longest possible under the social 
conditions of the present day, must be regarded as normal. All 
deviation below this average, unless it can be ascribed to the 
peculiarities of the particular work in question, must be entirely 
put down to excessive labour and insufficient income which does 
not allow to satisfy the most essential needs and the minimum 
demands of hygiene with regard to food, clothing, and housing.^ 

The absolute value of man is based, as we know, upon the 
possibility inherent in his reason and his will of infinitely approach- 
ing perfection or, according to the patristic expression, the 
possibility of becoming divine (Oeoxri's). This possibility does not 
pass into actuality completely and immediately, for if it did man 
would be already equal to God — which is not the case. The 
inner potentiality becomes more and more actual, and can only do 
so under definite real conditions. If an ordinary man is left for 
many years on an uninhabited island or in strict solitary confine- 
ment he cannot improve morally or intellectually, and indeed, ex- 
hibits rapid and obvious regress towards the brutal stage. Strictly 
speaking, the same is true of a man wholly absorbed in physical 
labour. Even if he does not deteriorate he is certainly unable to 
think of actively realising his highest significance as man. The 
moral point of view demands, then, that every one should have the 
means of existence {e.g. clothes and a warm and airy dwelling) and 
sufficient physical rest secured to him, and that he should also be 
able to enjoy leisure for the sake of his spiritual development. 
This and this alone is absolutely essential for every peasant and 
workman ; anything above this is from the evil one. 

Those who are opposed to improving the social and economic 
relations in accordance with the demands of morality urge the 
following consideration. They maintain that the only way in 
which the working people can, in addition to a secured material 
existence, have leisure to pursue their moral and intellectual de- 
velopment, is by reducing the number of hours of work, without 

^ A, A, Isaev, Natchala poUtitchtskei economii {Principles of Political Economy), 2nd 
ed. p. 22 6, 


reducing the wages. And this, they argue, will lead to a decrease 
of output, i.e. to economic loss or regress. Let it be provisionally 
granted that shorter hours of work with no reduction in wages 
will indeed inevitably lead to a diminution in productiveness. 
But a temporary diminution of output does not necessarily mean 
regress or loss. When the hours of work have been reduced to 
a certain norm, positive reasons conditioning the increase of pro- 
ductiveness will continue to operate. Such causes are to be 
found in technical improvements, greater proximity between 
different districts and countries owing to new means of com- 
munication, a closer intercourse between the different classes — 
causes all of which are wholly or partly independent of wages 
and hours of work. Thus the general quantity of output will 
again begin to increase ; and even at the time when the increase 
will not yet have attained the former level, production of the 
objects of first necessity for individuals and the state will obviously 
not be decreased at all, apd the decrease will entirely affect objects 
of luxury. It will be no great hardship to society if gold watches, 
satin skirts, and velvet chairs become twice or even three times as 
dear as they are novv. It may be said that shorter hours of work 
with the same pay means a direct loss to the factory owners. 
It is impossible, however, to do anything without loss to some 
one or other ; and it could hardly be called a calamity or an in- 
justice if certain manufacturers were to get half a million instead 
of a million, or fifty instead of a hundred thousand dividend. 
This social class, no doubt an important and necessary one, does 
not inevitably consist of avaricious, greedy, and selfish men. I 
know several capitalists entirely free from these vices ; and those of 
them who are not have a right to demand that society should pity 
them and not condone their abnormal and dangerous state of mind. 
The hackneyed philippics, prompted by low envy, that socialists 
indulge in against the rich are perfectly sickening ; demands for 
equalisation of property are unreasonable to the point of absurdity .■'■ 
But it is one thing to attack private wealth as though that in 

' The diametrical opposition between socialism and Christianity has often been 
noted, but the essence of it is generally wrongly understood. The popular saying that 
socialism demands that the poor should take from the rich, while Christianity wants 
the rich to give to the poor, is more witty than profound. The opposition is far 
deeper than this, and lies in the moral attitude towards the rich. Socialism e«i</«them 
and Christianity fitiis them — pities them because of the obstacles which connection 


itself were an evil, and another — to demand that wealth, as a 
relative good, should harmonise with the common good under- 
stood in the light of the unconditional moral principle. It is one 
thing to strive for an impossible and unnecessary equalisation of 
property, and another, while preserving the advantages of larger 
property to those who have it, to recognise the right of every 
one to the necessary means of worthy human existence. 

Apart from the false conclusions which the opponents of the 
moral regulation of economic relations deduce from their funda- 
mental assertion, they are wrong in that assertion itself. Regula- 
tion of the hours of work and of the amount of wages need not 
necessarily curtail the production at all (not even of the articles 
of luxury) or cause corresponding losses to the factory owners. 
This would be the case if the quantity — ^not to speak of quality— of 
the production entirely depended upon the number of hours ex- 
pended upon it. No thoughtful and conscientious economist 
would, however, venture to maintain such a crying absurdity. 
It is easy to see that a worker exhausted, dulled, and embittered 
by excessive labour can produce in sixteen hours less than he can 
produce in eight hours if he works zealously and cheerfully, with 
a consciousness of his human dignity and a faith in his moral 
connection with the society or the state which looks after his 
interests instead of exploiting him. Thus a moral adjustment of 
economic relations would at the same time make for economic 


In considering the organisation of human relations — in this 
case, of the economic ones — moral philosophy is not concerned 
with the concrete particular forms and determinations. These 
are dictated by life itself, and find realisation through the work of 
specialists and of men endowed with authority — men of theory 
and men of practice. Moral philosophy is only concerned with 
the immutable conditions which follow from the very nature of the 

with Mammon puts in tlie way of moral perfection : it is hard for the rich to enter the 
kingdom of heaven. But socialism takes that kingdom itself — i.e. the highest good 
and blessedness — to consist in nothing other than wealth, provided it is differently dis- 
tributed. That which for Christianity is an obstacle, for socialism is an end ; if this 
is not an antithesis I do not know what else to call by that name. 


good, and apart from which no concrete organisation could be 
moral. From the ethical point of view every social organisation 
is valuable and desirable only in so far as it embodies the moral 
principle, only in so far as it justifies the good. To make projects or 
prophecies is not the business of philosophy. It can neither offer 
definite plans of social organisation, nor even know whether indi- 
viduals and nations will seek to adjust their relations according to 
the demands of the absolute moral principle at all. Its problem is 
as clear and as independent of any external circumstances as the 
problems of pure mathematics. Under what conditions is a 
fragment of a three-sided prism equal to three pyramids ? Under 
what conditions do social relations in a given sphere correspond 
to the demands of the moral principle and ensure the stability and 
the constant moral progress of a given community ? 

We already know under what conditions social relations in 
the domain of material labour become moral. The first general 
condition is, that the sphere of economic activity should not be 
isolated or affirmed as independent and self-contained. The 
second, more special condition is that production should not be at 
the expense of the human dignity of the producers j that not 
one of them should become merely a means of production, and 
that each should have secured to him material means necessary 
for worthy existence and development. The first demand has a 
religious character : not to put Mammon in the place of God, not 
to regard material wealth as an independent good, and the final 
purpose of human activity,^ not even in the economic sphere. 
The second is a demand of humane feeling : to pity those who 
labour and are heavy laden, and not to set a lower value upon them 
than upon soulless things. To these two a third condition is 
necessarily added, which, so far as I am aware, has never yet been 
insisted upon in this connection. I am referring to the duties 
of man as an economic agent towards material nature itself, 
which he is called upon to cultivate. This duty is directly indi- 
cated in the commandment of labour : Till the ground.^ To 

' The recognition of material wealth as the end of economic activity may be called 
the original sin of political economy, since it dates back to Adam Smith. 

' The Hebrew words laobod ef gaadhma (Gen. iii, 23) literally mean ' to serve the 
earth ' — not, of course, to serve in the sense of a religious cult (although the word obod 
is used in this sense also) but in the sense in which angels serve humanity or a teacher 
serves the children, etc. 


cultivate the ground means not to misuse, exhaust, or devastate it, 
but to improve it, to bring it to greater power and fulness 
of being. Neither our fellow-men nor material nature must 
be a mere passive or impersonal instrument of economic pro- 
duction or exploitation. Taken in itself or in isolation it is 
not the end of our activity, but it is a distinct and independent 
part of that end. Its subordinate position in relation to the Deity 
and humanity does not render it rightless : it has a right to our 
help in transforming and uplifting it. Things are rightless, but 
nature or earth is not merely a thing but an objectified essence, 
which we can and therefore must help to become spiritualised. 
The end of labour, so far as material nature is concerned, is not to 
make it an instrument for obtaining things and money, but to 
perfect it — to revive the lifeless, to spiritualise the material in it. 
The methods whereby this can be achieved cannot be indicated 
here ; they fall within the province of art (in the broad sense of 
the Greek rexi"/)- But what is essential is the point of view, the 
inner attitude and the direction of activity that results from it. 
Without loving nature for its own sake it is impossible to organise 
material life in a moral way, 

Man's relation to material nature may be of three kinds : 
passive submission to it as it now exists ; active struggle with it, 
its subjugation and the using of it as an indifferent instrument ; 
and finally, the affirmation of it in its ideal state — of that which 
it ought to become through man. The first relation is wholly un- 
just both to man and to nature — to man, because it deprives him 
of his spiritual dignity by making him the slave of matter j to 
nature, because, in worshipping it in its present imperfect and per- 
verted condition, man deprives it of the hope of perfection. The 
second, the negative relation to nature is relatively normal, as a 
transitory and temporary stage ; for it is clear that in order to 
make nature what it ought to be, we must first condemn it as it 
is, as it ought not to be. But absolutely normal and final is of 
course only the third, the positive relation, in which man uses his 
superiority over nature for the sake of uplifting it as well as 
of raising himself. It will be easily noted that man's threefold 
relation to earthly nature is a repetition, though on a wider scale, 
of his relation to his own material nature. Here, too, we neces- 
sarily distinguish the abnormal (passive) and the normal (positively 


active) relation and the transition from the first to the second 
(negatively active). The carnal man submits and surrenders him- 
self to the material life in its undue, perverted state. The ascetic 
struggles with the flesh in order to conquer it. The perfect man, 
having passed through such a struggle, does not destroy his bodily 
life but attains to its transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension. 
Asceticism or the subjugation of the flesh in individual life, struggle 
writh external earthly nature and the subjugation of it in the 
common life of humanity, is merely a necessary transition and not 
the ideal form of activity. The ideal is to cultivate the earth, to 
minister to it, so that it might be renewed and regenerated. 


The efficient or producing cause of labour is found in the needs 
of man. This cause holds good for all the &ctors of production 
which appear now as the subjects and now as the objects of needs. 
The worker, as a living being, has need of the means of liveli- 
hood, and, as labour, he is the object of need to the capitalist, 
who in his turn, as employer, is an object of need to the worker, 
and in this sense is the immediate efficient cause of his labour. 
The same persons, as producers, stand in a similar relation to 
consumers, etc. 

The »z«^«nfl/ (and instrumental) cause of labour and production 
is found on the one hand in the forces of nature, and on the other 
in the various faculties and forces of man. But these twofold 
(efficient and material) economic causes, studied by political 
economy and statistics from different points of view, are physically 
unlimited and morally indefinite. The needs may increase in 
number and complexity ad infinitum j both needs and feculties 
may be of different worth, and, finally, the forces of nature may 
be used in the most various directions. All this leads to practical 
questions to which political economy, as a science limited to the 
material and existent aspect of things, can give no answer. Many 
persons have a need of pornography. Should this need be satisfied 
by the production of indecent books, pictures, immoral spectacles ? 
Some demands, as well as some feculties, are obviously perverted 
in character ; thus in the case of many persons certain positive 
qualities of intellect and will degenerate into a peculiar capacity 


for clever swindling within the limits of legality. Should we 
allow this capacity to develop freely and become a special pro- 
fession or branch of work ? Political economy as such can 
obviously answer nothing to questions such as these — they in 
no wise concern it. They directly concern, however, the re- 
cognised interests of society which cannot confine itself to matters 
of fact alone, but must submit them to a higher causality, by 
drawing a distinction between the normal and abnormal needs 
and faculties, the normal and abnormal use of the forces of nature. 
Since the fact of the existence of needs on the one hand and 
of forces and faculties on the other does not solve the practical 
question as to the extent to which the first should be satisfied 
and the manner in which the latter should be used, appeal has 
to be made to the moral principle as determining that which 
ought to be. It does not create the factors and elements of labour, 
but indicates how those already in existence should be used. 
Hence follows a new conception of labour, both more general 
and more definite than that given by political economy as such. 
For political economy labour is an activity of man ensuing from 
his needs, conditioned by his faculties, applied to the forces of 
nature, and having for its purpose the production of the greatest 
possible wealth. From the moral point of view labour is interaction 
between men in the material world ; it must, in accordance with the 
moral demands, secure to each and all the necessary means of worthy 
existence, enabling man to bring to perfection all his powers, and is 
finally destined to transfigure and spiritualise material nature. Such 
is the essence of labour from the point of view of the higher 
causality — of the formal and final cause — apart from which the 
two lower causes remain practically indefinite. 

Further conditions of the normal economic life become clear 
in analysing the conceptions oi property and exchange. 


All the acute questions of the economic life are closely con- 
nected with the idea of property, which in itself, however, belongs 
to the sphere of jurisprudence, morality, and psychology rather 
than to that of economic relations. This fact alone clearly 


shows how mistaken is the attempt to conceive of the economic 
phenomena as entirely independent and self-contained. 

The ultimate basis of property, as all serious philosophers of 
modern times rightly recognise, is to be found in the very nature 
of man. Even in the contents of inner psychical experience we 
necessarily distinguish ourselves from what is ours : all our thoughts, 
feelings, desires, we regard as belonging to us, in contradistinction 
to ourselves as thinking, feeling, desiring. The relation is two- 
fold. On the one hand, we necessarily put ourselves above what 
is ours, for we recognise that our existence is not by any means 
exhausted by or limited to any particular mental states — that 
this thought, this desire may disappear while we ourselves remain. 
This is the fundamental expression of human personality as 
formally unconditional, quite apart from the metaphysical question 
of the soul as substance. On the other hand, however, we are 
aware that if we are deprived of all mental states altogether we 
shall become a blank ; so that for the reality and fulness of being 
it is insufficient to be 'oneself,' but it is necessary to have 'one's 
own.' Even in the inner psychical sphere that which belongs 
to the self is not always the absolute property of the person and 
is not always connected with him to the same extent. 

Some mental states express by their content in the most inti- 
mate, direct, and immediate way that which is essential and funda- 
mental to the given individual, and are in a sense inseparable from 
him. Thus, for instance, when a person has an implicit steadfest 
feith in God, such feith is his unalienable property — not in the sense 
that he must always actually have in mind a positive thought of 
God with corresponding thoughts and impulses, but only in the 
sense that every time the idea of God actually arises in his mind, 
or that he is faced with a question concerning God, a definite 
positive answer accompanied by corresponding states of feeling 
and will is bound to follow. Other mental states are, on the 
contrary, merely superficial and transitory reactions of the person to 
external influences — accidental both in contentand inorigin, though 
conditioned by a more or less complex association of ideas and 
other mental and bodily processes. Thus when a person happens 
to think of the advantages or disadvantages of cycling, or to 
wish for a drink of beer, or to feel indignation at some lie in 
the newspapers, etc., it is obvious that such accidental states are 


but feebly connected with the person to whom they belong, 
that he loses nothing and experiences no essential change when 
they disappear. Finally, some mental states cannot, apart from 
their content and manner of origin, be regarded as reactions on 
the part of the individual who experiences them at all, so that 
their belonging to him must be recognised as fictitious. To 
this category belong the suggested {hypnotically or otherwise) 
ideas, desires and feelings, and actions ensuing therefrom. It 
is very difficult to offer a theoretical account of them, but they 
unquestionably exist. Without going into these exceptional 
phenomena, however, it is sufficient to indicate the fact that 
both in theory and in practice certain actions are not laid to the 
responsibility of the persons who commit them. In view of the 
circumstance that, for the most part, these actions are conditioned 
by corresponding ideas, feelings, and impulses on the part of the 
agent, the recognition that he is not responsible for them implies 
that certain mental states do not belong to or form the property 
of the person who experiences them. 

Thus even in the sphere of the inner psychical life we find 
that property is but relative and different in degree, beginning 
with the ' treasure ' in which man ' puts his very soul ' and which 
may nevertheless be taken from him, and ending with states 
which prove to belong to him in an utterly fictitious sense. 
Similar relativity obtains with regard to external property. The 
immediate object of it is man's own body, which, however, 
belongs to man only more or less. This is true, first, in the 
natural sense that the individual himself cannot regard as equally 
his own those organs or parts of the body without which earthly 
life is altogether impossible {e.g. the head or the heart), those 
without which it is possible but not enjoyable {e.g. 'the apple of 
the eye ' ), and those the loss of which is no misfortune at all 
{e.g. an amputated finger or an extracted tooth, not to speak of 
nails, hair, etc.). If, however, the real connection of the person 
with his body is thus relative and unequal, there is no natural 
ground for regarding the body as his absolute property or as 
absolutely inviolable. And from the point of view of the un- 
conditional moral principle the bodily inviolability of a person is 
not anything distinct and on its own account, but is connected 
with universal and generally binding norms, and is therefore 


incompatible with the violation of these norms. If it is both my 
right and my duty forcibly to prevent a man from injuring a 
defenceless being, it must be the right and the duty of other 
persons to exercise such bodily compulsion over myself too in a 
similar case. 

If, on the other hand, property is understood in the strict 
sense as the 'jus utendi and abutendi re sua' (the right to use 
and to abuse of one's own thing), such a right is not absolute so 
far as one's body is concerned. On this side too it is limited by 
just considerations of the common good which have found 
expression in legal codes of all epochs and nations. If the whole 
of man's physical powers are needed, for instance, for the defence 
of his country, even so slight an ' abuse ' of one's body as cutting 
ofF a finger is recognised as criminal. And even apart from such 
special conditions, not by any means every use that man may 
make of his body is regarded as permissible. 

But whatever the moral and social limitations of man's rights 
over his own body may be, in any case it unquestionably belongs to 
him, just as his mental states do, in virtue of a direct and natural 
connection, independent of his will, between himself and what is 
his. As to external things, the ground upon which they belong 
to this or that person, or are appropriated by him, is not im- 
mediately given and calls for explanation. Even when there 
appears to be the closest connection between a person and a 
thing, as for instance between necessary clothing and the person 
who is wearing it, the question as to property still remains open, 
for the clothes may not be his own but may have been stolen 
from somebody else. On the other hand, a person living in 
Petersburg or London may have immovable property in East 
Siberia which he has never seen nor ever will see. If, then, the 
presence of the closest real connection between a person and a 
thing (as in the first case) is in no sense a guarantee of property, 
while the absence of any real connection (as in the second 
instance) is no obstacle to property, it follows that the real 
connection is altogether irrelevant and that the right of property 
must have an ideal basis. According to a current philosophical 
definition, property is the ideal continuation of the person in 
things or the extension of the person to things. In what way, 
however, and upon what ground is the self thus extended to 


what is other than it and appropriates that other ? Such extension 
cannot be due to the act of personal will alone ; an act of will 
can transfer the already existing right of property (through gift 
or legacy, etc.), but it cannot create the right itself. The right 
of property is usually held to arise in two ways only, through 
possession and 'work. Possession in the strict sense, i.e. apart 
from any special work (such as the military), through simple 
seizure resulting from a direct act of will gives rise to a special 
right of property, 'the right of the first occupier' {^jus primi 
occupantis '), but does so only in exceptional cases, more and 
more rarely met with, when that which is seized belongs to no 
one (' res nullius ' ). 

Work thus remains, in the general opinion, the essential basis 
of property. The product of one's work and effort naturally 
becomes one's own, one's property. This ground, however, also 
proves to be insecure. If it were sufficient, children would have 
to be recognised as the property of the mother who brought 
them into the world with no little labour and eiFort. Reservations 
have to be made and human beings must be a priori excluded 
from the class of objects of property ; and this can only be done in 
virtue of principles utterly foreign to the economic sphere as 
such. At this point, however, a new and more important 
difficulty arises. It has been granted that things alone can be 
objects of property, and that the ground of property is labour 
which produces them. This would be all very well if labour 
could produce things ; but in truth labour produces not things 
but utility in things. Utility, however, is a relation and not a 
thing and cannot therefore be the object of property. In common 
parlance, dating from primitive times, it is usual to speak of 
workmen making things ; but even persons ignorant of political 
economy understand that workmen merely produce in the given 
material changes which communicate to it some relatively new 
qualities corresponding to certain human needs. There is no 
doubt that they work for their own sake as well as for other 
people's, and that their work must give satisfaction to their own 
needs. " The workman is worthy of his meat," 1 — this is a 
moral axiom which no one would honestly challenge. The 
question, however, is what can be the ground of the workman's 

1 ' Meat' should, of course, be understood in the wide sense explained above. 

2 A 


ownership of the so-called products of labour. Labour which 
does not produce a thing, but only a certain particular quality in 
it, inseparable from the thing itself, cannot justify the ownership 
of that which it did not produce, and which does not depend 
upon it. The employer is responsible for the workman's labour 
but not for the reality of its products, and is therefore in the 
same position as the workman with regard to the latter. 

Thus there exists no real ground why the product of labour 
should be the property of any one, and we must therefore turn to 
the ideal grounds. 


In virtue of the absolute significance of personality every man 
has a right to the means of a worthy existence. Since, however, 
the individual as such has this right potentially only, and it 
depends upon society actually to realise or to secure it, it 
follows that the individual has a corresponding duty towards 
society — the duty to be useful to it or to work for the common 
good. In this sense work is the source of property : the 
worker has an unquestionable right of property over what he 
has earned. Within certain limits demanded by the moral prin- 
ciple, wages may be regulated by society — i.e. by the central 
authority or the Government — and not be allowed to fall 
below a certain minimum, but they cannot be prescribed with 
absolute exactness. On the other hand, the needs and the 
conditions of a worthy existence are even in a normal society only 
an approximately constant and definite quantity. Hence it 
becomes possible for individual persons to save or to accumulate 
material means, i.e. to form capital. There is, of course, still 
less visible and real connection between capital and the person 
who has saved it than there is between the workman and the 
thing he has made, but the close and complete ideal connection 
is obvious. Capital as such, in its general nature — apart from 
the circumstances owing to which it may in individual cases have 
been built up — is a pure product of human will, for originally it 
depended upon that will to save a part of the earnings or to use 
it too for current needs. Capital, therefore, ought in justice to 
be recognised as property par excellence.'^ 

> I have indicated the source of capital in the simplest normal scheme, But 


The conception pf property involves the conception of freely 
disposing of the object of property. Ought this freedom to be 
absolute and include both the use and the abuse of property ? 
Since the realisation of any right at all is only possible if society 
guarantees it, there is no reason w^hy society should guarantee 
personal misuse of a right that conflicts with the common good. 
From the fact that, according to the moral principle, the 
individual has absolute and inalienable rights, it by no means 
follows that every act of his will is the expression of such an 
inalienable right. Apart from being irrational such a supposition 
would be practically self-destructive, since a will which trespasses 
upon all rights would also in that case be inviolable, and there- 
fore there would be no inalienable right left. And if it is both 
permissible and obligatory to prevent a person from misusing his 
hands (for instance, from committing a murder), it is also 
permissible and obligatory to prevent him from misusing his 
property to the detriment of the common good or social justice.^ 

The only question is as to what we are to understand by 
misuse that calls for the intervention of the state. Socialism 
recognises as misuse all transfer of earned property -to another 
person by legacy or testament. This transference of economic 
advantages to persons who have not personally deserved them is 
alleged to be the main wrong and the source of all social evils. 
But although inheritance of property has some real drawbacks, 
they disappear in the face of the positive side of this institution, 
which necessarily follows from the very nature of man. The 
continuous chain of progress in humanity is kept together by 
the conscious successiveness of its links. While the all- 
embracing unity of the future is still in the making, the very 

whatever anomalies may accompany the formation and growth of capital in actual 
life, the part played by the will or the strength of spirit remains in any case essential. 
Since there is no doubt that all wealth may be squandered, the mere fact of saving it 
is an obvious merit of will on the part of the saver ; it is null in comparison with 
merits of a different and higher order, but in their absence it undoubtedly has an 
importance of its own. 

1 Even Roman law, thoroughly individualistic as it was in this respect, introduced 
an important reservation into the formula quoted above ! proprietas est jus utendi et 
abutendi re sua quatenus juris ratio patitur — property is the right to use and to abuse of 
one's thing in so far as it is compatible with the meaning (or the rational basis) of 
justice. But the meaning of justice demands precisely that private caprice should be 
limited by the common good. 


process whereby it comes about demands mutual moral dependence 
between generations, in virtue of which one does not merely 
follow the other but also inherits from it. If it were not for 
the intentional and voluntary handing down of what has been 
acquired, we should have only a physical succession of generations, 
the later repeating the life of the former, as is the case with 
animals. The most important thing, of course, is the continuous 
accumulation of spiritual inheritance ; but since it is only 
given to a few to hand down to universal posterity permanent 
spiritual acquisitions, and since moral demands are the same for 
" all, it is the right and the duty of the majority of men to try 
and improve the material conditions of life for their immediate 
successors. Those who wholly devote themselves to the service 
of the universal future and already anticipate it as an ideal 
have a right to refer to the precept of taking no thought for 
the morrow advocated in the Gospels. To imitate the lilies 
of the field one must be as pure as they are, and to be like 
the fowls of the air one must be able to fly as high. But 
if either purity or loftiness be lacking, practical carelessness 
likens us not to the lilies or the birds of the air, but to the 
animal which, careless of the future, grubs up the roots of the 
kindly oak tree, and even, on occasion, devours its own offspring 
instead of acorns. 

When dealing with an institution which is not immoral and 
is based upon ideal foundations though it corresponds only to 
the medium level of morality, no serious moralist ought to 
forget the unquestionable truth that it is far more difficult for 
society to rise above this level than to sink below it. Even 
if socialism and theories akin to it did intend to turn every 
human being into an angel, they would certainly fail to do so ; but 
to bring the human mass down to the brutal stage is not at all 
difficult. To reject in the name of the absolute moral ideal the 
necessary social conditions of moral progress means, in the first 
place, in defiance of logic, to confuse the absolute and eternal 
value of that which is being realised with the relative value of the 
degree of realisation as a process in time. Secondly, it means 
a thoughtless attitude towards the absolute ideal which, apart 
from the concrete conditions of its realisation, becomes for man 
an empty phrase. Thirdly, this pseudo-moral uncompromising 


straightforwardness means the absence of the most fundamental 
and elementary moral impulse — pity^ and pity precisely to 
those who are most in need of it — to the ' least of these.' To 
preach absolute morality and reject all moralising institutions, to 
lay burdens too heavy to be borne upon the weak and helpless 
shoulders of average humanity, is illogical^ thoughtless, and immoral. 
Inherited property is the abiding realisation of moral inter- 
action in the most intimate and the most fundamental social 
group — namely, in the family. Inherited wealth is, on the one 
hand, the embodiment of pity, reaching beyond the grave, 
of the parents for their children, and, on the other, a con- 
crete point of departure for a pious memory of the departed 
parents. With these two is connected, at any rate with regard to 
the most important kind of property — the property in land, a third 
moral factor, viz. man's relation to the external nature, i.e. to the 
earth. For the majority of men this relation can become moral 
only on condition of their having inherited landed property. To 
understand earthly nature and to love it for its own sake is given 
to a few only ; but every one becomes naturally attached to his 
own native spot, to the graves of his fathers and the haunts of 
his childhood. It is a moral bond, and one which extends human 
solidarity to material nature, thus making a beginning of its 
spiritualisation. This fact both justifies the institution of in- 
herited property in land and serves as a basis for making it more 
conformable to the demands of morality. It is not sufficient to 
recognise the ideal character which obviously attaches to such 
property : it is necessary to strengthen and develop this 
character, protecting it from the low and selfish motives which 
are natural enough at the present stage of human progress and 
may easily gain the upper hand. Decisive check must be put upon 
the treatment of the earth as a lifeless instrument of rapacious 
exploitation ; the plots of land handed down from one generation 
to another must, in principle, be made inalienable and sufficient 
to maintain in each person a moral attitude towards the earth. 
It will be said that, with the population constantly increasing, 
enough land cannot be found both to preserve to each what he has 
got, or even a part of it, and to give some to those who have not 
got any. This objection appears to be a serious one, but is in truth 
either thoughtless or unfair. It would certainly be very absurd 


to suggest as an absolute, separate, and independent measure that 
an inalienable plot of land should be secured to each and all. 
This measure may and ought to be taken only in connection 
with another reform — the cessation, namely, of that rapacious 
method of cultivation which will end in there not being enough 
land for any one, let alone for all. And if land is treated in the 
moral way and looked after like a being whom one loves, the 
minimum amount of land sufficient for each person may become 
so small that there will be enough for those who have not got 
any, without doing injustice to those who have. 

As to the unlimited increase of population, it is not ordained by 
any physical, and, still less, by any moral law. It is understood, 
of course, that normal economics are only possible in connection 
with the normal family, which is based upon rational asceticism 
and not upon unchecked carnal instincts. The immoral exploita- 
tion of land cannot stop so long as there is immoral exploitation 
of woman. If man's relation to his inner house (this is the name 
applied by the Scriptures to the wife) is wrong, his relation to his 
external house cannot be right either. A man who beats his 
wife cannot care for the earth as he should. Speaking generally, 
the moral solution of the economic question is intimately con- 
nected with the whole problem of life in the individual and the 

Just as there can be no physiological life without the inter- 
change of substances, so there can be no social life without the 
interchange of things (and of signs representing them). This 
important section of human material relations is studied on its 
technical side by political economy, iinancial and commercial 
law, and falls within the scope of moral philosophy only in 
so far as exchange becomes fraud. To judge economic pheno- 
mena and relations as such — to affirm, e.g.^ as some moralists do, 
that money is an evil, that there must be no commerce, that 
banks ought to be abolished, etc. — is unpardonable childishness. 
It is obvious that objects which are thus condemned are morally 
indifferent or neutral, and become good or evil only according to 
the quality and direction of the will that uses them. If we are 


to give up money as an evil because many people use money for 
evil purposes, we ought also to give up the powder of articulate 
speech, since many use it for sw^earing, idle talk, and slander ; we 
should also have to give up using fire for fear of conflagrations, 
and water for fear of persons committing suicide by drowning. 
In truth, however, money, commerce, and banks are not in them- 
selves an evil but become an evil, or, more exactly, become the 
consequence of an already existing evil and the cause of a new one, 
when, instead of necessary interchange, they serve the purposes of 
selfish fraud. 

The root of evil in this case, as in the whole of the economic 
sphere, is one and the same, namely, that the material interest is 
made dominant instead of subservient, independent instead of 
dependent, an end instead of a means. From this poisonous root 
three noxious stems spring in the domain of exchange — falsifica- 
tion, speculation, and usury. 

A modern text-book of political economy gives as a current 
definition of commerce that it is a trade "consisting in the buying 
and selling of goods with the object of gain." The description 
of commerce as the buying and seUing of goods is purely verbal ; 
the important thing is the purpose which is here said to consist 
entirely in the gain of the trader.^ If, however, the one object 
of commerce is gain, all profitable falsification of goods and 
all successful speculation is justified. And if gain is the purpose 
of commerce, it is certainly also the purpose of money-lending ; 
and since the latter is more profitable the higher the rate of 
interest, unlimited usury is also justified. If, on the other hand, 
such facts are recognised as inconsistent with the moral norm, it 
must also be recognised that commerce and exchange in general 
may only be a means of private gain on condition that they should 
in the first place serve the community as a whole and fulfil a 
social function for the good of all. 

From this point of view the economic anomalies indicated 
can only be abolished if their immoral root is destroyed. But 
every one understands that the unchecked growth of a plant 
strengthens its roots and extends them in breadth and in depth, and 
that if the roots are very deep, the stem must be cut down first. 

^ I do not, of course, hold the author of the book responsible for this definition, 
since he only gives expression to the popular idea. 


To speak without metaphors : apart from the inner, purely ideal 
and verbal struggle with the vice of cupidity, normal society 
can and ought decisively to oppose by means of concrete external 
measures such luxurious growths of unlimited cupidity as com- 
mercial falsification, speculation, and usury. 

Falsification of goods, especially of the objects of necessary 
consumption, is a menace to public welfare and is not merely 
immoral but positively criminal. In some cases it is regarded as 
such even at the present day, but this view must be worked out 
more consistently. When the whole legal procedure and system 
of penalties ^ is reformed, increased persecution of these special 
oiFences will not be an act of cruelty but of justice. Two things 
ought to be remembered in this connection : in the first place, 
that people who suffer most from this evil are the poor and 
ignorant^ who are unfortunate enough as it is ; and secondly, that 
the unchecked performance of these crimes, as of all others, is in- 
jurious not only to the victims but to the criminals themselves, 
who may feel that their immorality is justified and encouraged by 
the condonation of society. 

Financial operations with fictitious values (the so - called 
' speculations ') are certainly a social disease rather than a personal 
crime, and the first remedy is absolute prohibition of institutions 
whereby this disease is nurtured. As to usury, the only sure 
method of abolishing it is, obviously, universal development of 
normal credit, not with the object of gain but as a charitable 

In discussing economic relations which ought to hold in the 
domain of labour, property, and exchange, I have spoken throughout 
of justice and right, conceptions which have also been presupposed 
in the treatment of the penal question. For the most part the 
terms 'justice ' and 'right' carry the same meaning. The idea of 
justice, however, expresses a purely moral demand, and therefore 
belongs to the ethical sphere, while right determines a special 
sphere of relations — namely, the legal one. Is this distinction 
merely a misunderstanding or, if it is well grounded, what is the 
meaning and the degree of it ? Turning now to the question as 
to the relation of morality and legal justice or right, we may note, 
without prejudging the content of our inquiry, that the question 

1 See above, Part III., Chap. VI. 


is an extremely wide one, for the idea of right inevitably involves a 
series of other ideas — lawr, authority, legal compulsion, state. In 
discussing the organisation of just social relations I took these ideas 
for granted, since such an organisation can obviously not be realised 
through moral preaching alone. 



The absolute moral principle, the demand, namely, or the command- 
ment to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, or to realise 
in ourselves the image and likeness of God, already contains in its 
very nature the recognition of the relative element in morality. 
For it is clear that the demand for perfection can only be addressed 
to a being who is imperfect ; urging him to become like the higher 
being, the commandment presupposes the lower stages and the 
relative degrees of advance. Thus, the absolute moral principle 
or the perfect good is for us, to use Hegel's language, a unity of 
itself and its other, a synthesis of the absolute and the relative. 
The existence of the relative or the imperfect, as distinct from the 
absolute good, is a fact not to be got over, and to deny it, to 
confuse the two terms, or, with the help of dialectical tricks and 
on the strength of mystical emotions, to affirm them as identical, 
would be false. Equally false, however, is the opposite course — 
the separation, namely, of the relative from the absolute, as of two 
wholly distinct spheres which have nothing in common. From 
this dualistic point of view man himself, whose striving towards 
the absolute is inseparably connected with relative conditions, 
proves to be the incarnation of absurdity. The only rational 
point of view, which both reason and conscience compel us to 
adopt, consists in recognising that the actual duality between the 
relative and the absolute resolves itself for us into a free and 
complete unity (but not by any means into an empty identity of 
indifference) through the real and moral process of approaching 



perfection — a process ranging from the rigid stone to the glory 
and freedom of the sons of God. 

At each stage the relative is connected with the absolute 
as a means for concretely bringing about the perfection of all ; 
and this connection justifies the lesser good as a condition of 
the greater. At the same time it justifies the absolute good itself, 
which would not be absolute if it could not connect with itself or 
include in one way or another all concrete relations. And indeed, 
nowhere in the world accessible to us do we find the two 
terms in separation or in their bare form. Everywhere the 
absolute principle is clothed with relative forms, and the relative 
is inwardly connected with the absolute and held together by it. 
The difference lies simply in the comparative predominance of 
one or the other aspect. 

When some two species of concrete relations or some two 
domains within which they are exemplified are separated from and 
opposed to one another, one being regarded as absolute and another 
as purely relative in meaning, we may be certain that the opposi- 
tion itself is purely relative. Each of the two domains is simply 
a special instance of the relation between the absolute and the 
relative, — relation different in form and degree, but identical in 
nature and supreme purpose. And it is in this relation of both 
to the absolute that the positive connection or the unity of the 
two consists. 

Within the limits of the active or practical life of humanity 
there is apparent opposition between the moral sphere in the 
strict sense and the sphere of legal justice. From ancient times, 
beginning with the pagan Cynics and the Christian gnostics, and 
down to our own day, this opposition has been taken to be un- 
conditional. Morality alone has been regarded as absolute, and 
legal justice, as a purely conventional phenomenon, has been 
rejected in the name of the absolute demands. One immediately 
feels that this view is false, but moral philosophy compels us to 
disregard this feeling which may, after all, be deceptive, and to 
consider the true relation between morality and legal justice 
from the standpoint of the absolute good. Is this good justified 
by its relation to justice ? A person interested in etymology 
may note that the answer is already contained in the terms of 
the question. This philological circumstance will be discussed 


further on, but it must not as such prejudge the philosophic 


In his lectures on Criminal Law Professor N. S. Tagantsev 
quotes, among other things, the following Prussian enactment of 
the year 1739 : 

" If an advocate or a procurator or any similar person ventures 
to present any petition to his Royal Majesty, either personally 
or through somebody else, it is the pleasure of his Royal Majesty 
that the aforesaid person should be hanged without mercy, and a 
dog be hanged by the side of him." 

Of the legality or conformity to law of the enactment in 
question there can be no doubt ; and there can be equally no 
doubt of its being opposed to the most elementary demands of 
justice. The opposition seems to be intentionally emphasised by 
extending the punishment of the advocate or procurator to the 
perfectly innocent dog. Similar, though not such glaring cases of 
disagreement between morality and positive right, between justice 
and law, are frequently met with in history. The question must 
then be asked, how is this fact to be regarded, and which ot 
the two conflicting principles are we to adopt in practical life ? 
The answer appears to be clear. Moral demands have an inherent 
character of being absolutely binding, which may be entirely 
absent from the enactments of positive law. Hence the conclusion 
seems legitimate that the question as to the relation between 
morality and legal justice is settled by a simple rejection of the 
latter as a binding principle of action. All human relations must 
accordingly be reduced to purely moral interaction, and the sphere 
of the legal or juridical determinations and relations must be 
entirely rejected. 

This conclusion is very easily thought of, but is also extremely 
thoughtless. This ' antinomy,' or the absolute opposition between 
morality and law, has never subjected its fundamental assumption 
to any consistent or far-reaching criticism. 

That a formally legal enactment, such as the edict of the king 
of Prussia, quoted above, is opposed to the demands of morality is 
only too obvious. But it may well be that it is also opposed to 


the demands of legal justice itself. The possibility of conflict 
between the formal legality of certain actions and the essence of 
legal justice will become clearer to the reader if I give a concrete 
instance of an analogous conflict between the formally- moral 
character of an action and the true nature of morality. 

It was reported in the papers a little while ago that a woman 
suspected of causing the illness of a boy by means of a bewitched 
apple was terribly injured and almost killed by the crowd in the 
centre of Moscow — near St. Panteleimon's Chapel in Nikolsky 
Street. Now these people acted independently of any interested 
motives or external considerations ; they had no personal enmity to 
the woman and no personal interest in beating her ; their sole 
motive was the feeling that so outrageous a crime as the poisoning 
of an innocent babe by means of sorcery ought to meet with just 
retribution. Thus it cannot be denied that their behaviour had a 
formally - moral character, though every one will agree that it 
certainly was essentially immoral. If, however, the fact that 
revolting crimes may be committed from purely moral motives 
does not lead us to reject morality as such, there is no reason why 
such essentially unjust, though legal, enactments as the Prussian 
law of 1739 should be regarded as sufficient ground for rejecting 
legal justice. In the case of the crime in Nikolsky Street it is 
not the moral principle that is at fault, but the insuflicient develop- 
ment of the moral consciousness in the half-savage crowd ; in the 
case of the absurd Prussian law it is not the idea of legal justice 
or law that is at fault, but only the small degree to which the idea 
of justice was developed in the consciousness of King Friedrich- 
Wilhelm. It would not be worth while to discuss the subject 
were it not for the bad habit, which has become established of 
late, especially with reference to legal questions, to deduce, 
contrary to logic, general conclusions from concrete particular 


It is not legal justice and morality that conflict and are incom- 
patible with one another, but the different states both of the legal 
and the moral consciousness. Apart from these states and their 
concrete expressions, there exist, however, in the domain of legal 


justice, just as much as in the domain of morality, abiding and 
essential norms, the presence of which is unconsciously admitted 
even by the spirit of lying, in his sophistic attack on jurisprudence : 

All rights and laws are still transmitted 
Like an eternal sickness of the race, — 
From generation unto generation fitted 
And shifted round from place to place. 
Reason becomes a sham, Beneficence a worry : 
Thou art a grandchild, therefore woe to thee. 
The right born with us, ours in verity 
This to consider, there's, alas ! no hurry. 

Even Mephistopheles recognises this natural right, and merely 
complains that it is ignored.^ In truth, how^ever, it is referred to 
whenever a question of right arises. No fact belonging to the 
legal sphere, no expression of legal justice, can be judged of except 
by reference to a general conception or norm of j ustice. Mephis- 
topheles himself applies this conception or norm when he says 
that certain rights and laws, once rational and beneficial, have 
become senseless and mischievous. He indicates here one aspect 
of the case only, namely, the so-called conservatism of legal justice. 
This fact, too, has its rational foundation, and the disadvantages 
which it involves, and upon which Mephistopheles exclusively 
dwells, are cancelled by another fact, not mentioned by the spirit 
of lying for his own reasons — the fact, namely, that legal con- 
sciousness gradually develops, and that legal enactments are, as 
a fact, improved. This unquestionable progress in the domain 
of legal justice can be shown even in the case of the unjust law 
quoted above. I do not simply mean that enactments like the 
Prussian edict of 1739 have become utterly impossible in any 
European country, and that the penalty of death even for the 
worst and unquestionable crimes has long been condemned by the 
best representatives of the legal profession. I contend that this 
edict itself meant unquestionable progress in comparison with 
the state of things which had once prevailed in Brandenburg and 
Pomerania, as in the rest of Europe, when every powerful baron 
could calmly put peaceful people to death for motives of personal 

' Apart from the direct meaning of this remark, it may be regarded as a kind of 
prophecy of the persecution which, a quarter of a century after Goethe's death, the idea 
of the natural right suffered in jurisprudence. There are signs which show that this 
persecution is coming to an end. 


vengeance, or for the sake of seizing their property. At the time 
of Frederick the Great's father it was the king alone who had the 
power to take a man's life, and, in doing so, he had no personal 
or selfish purpose in view. It is obvious, indeed, that Friedrich 
Wilhelm's object in composing his edict was to put down denun- 
ciation and slander by the threat of the penalty of death, and not 
actually to deprive of life advocates, procurators, and dogs. The 
barons of the old times were unquestionably guilty of murder and 
robbery, but the king, even when publishing the revolting edict, 
was still acting as the guardian of justice, though at a very low 
level of legal consciousness. 

This difference of degree, this actual progress in legal justice, 
the steady advance of the legal enactments towards legal norms, 
conformable to, though not identical with, the moral demands, 
sufficiently proves that the relation between the two principles 
is not merely negative. It shows that it is unpermissible from 
the point of view of morality itself to dismiss the whole range of 
legal facts and problems by a simple and meaningless rejection 
of them. 


The relation between the moral and the legal sphere is 
one of the fundamental questions of practical philosophy. It 
is really the question as to the relation between the ideal moral 
consciousness and the actual life. The vitality and the fruitfulness 
of the moral consciousness depends upon this relation being under- 
stood in a positive sense. Between the ideal good on the one 
hand and the evil reality on the other Hes the intermediate sphere 
of law and justice, whose function is to give concrete embodiment 
to the good, to limit and to correct the evil. Justice and its 
embodiment — the state — condition the actual organisation of the 
moral life of humanity. Moral preaching which takes up a 
negative attitude towards justice as such could have no objective 
basis or means of expression in the real environment that is foreign 
to it, and would remain at best an innocent pastime. If, on the 
other hand, the formal conceptions and institutions of legal justice 
were completely severed from the moral principles and purposes, 
legality would lose its absolute basis and become purely arbitrary. 


Indeed, in order consistently to carry out the separation between 
legal right and morality it would be necessary to give up the 
ordinary use of speech, which, in all languages, unmistakably testifies 
to the fundamental inner relation between the two ideas. The 
conception of right and the correlative conception of duty form so 
essential a part of the system of moral ideas that they may serve 
as a direct expression of them. Every one understands and no one 
would dispute such moral affirmations as : I am conscious of the 
duty to abstain from everything shameful, or, what is the same 
thing, I recognise that human dignity (in my own person) has a 
right to my respect ; it is my duty to help my neighbours as much 
as in me lies and to serve the common good, i.e. my neighbours 
and society as a whole have a right to my help and service ; finally, 
it is my duty to harmonise my will with what I regard as the 
highest of all, or, in other words, the absolutely highest has a right 
to a religious attitude on my part (which is the ultimate basis of 
all religious worship). 

There is not a single moral relation which could not be 
correctly and intelligibly expressed in terms of right. One would 
think that nothing could be more remote from the juridical order 
of ideas than love for one's enemies. And yet if the supreme 
moral law proclaims it my duty to love my enemies, it is clear that 
my enemies have a right to my love. If I deny love to them, I 
act unjustly, I sin against what is right. Here we have a term 
which alone embodies the essential unity of the juridical and the 
moral principles.^ For rights are nothing more than the expression 
of what is right, and, on the other hand, all virtues ^ are reducible 
to the idea of right or justice, i.e. to what is right or due in the 
ethical sense. This is not a case of accidental similarity of terms, 
but of essential homogeneity and inner connection of the ideas 

It does not, of course, follow that the sphere of legal justice 
and morality coincide, or that the moral and the juridical concep- 

1 Iti all languages, moral and juridical conceptions are expressed either by the same 
terms or by terms derived from the same root. The Russian dolg, like the Latin debitum 
(hence the French devoir) and the German Schuld have both a moral and a juridical 
meaning; in the case of Siici) and SiKaioiriviiJus and justitia, of the Russian fravo and 
pra-vda, the German Recht and GerecAtigkeit, the English right and righteousness, the two 
meanings are distinguished by the use of suffixes. Cp. also the Hebrew tsedek and tsedakhh. 

2 See above, Part I., Chapter V. : " Virtues." 


tions should be confused. One thing only is indisputable, namely, 
that there is a positive and intimate relation between the two 
spheres, which does not permit of one being rejected in the name 
of the other. The question, then, is in what precisely does the 
connection and the difference between them consist. 


The fact that we speak of moral right and moral duty, on the 
one hand proves the absence of any fundamental opposition or 
incompatibility of the moral and the juridical principles, and, 
on the other, indicates an essential difference between them. In 
designating a given right {e.g. the right of my enemy to my love) 
as moral only, we imply that in addition to the moral there 
exist other rights, i.e. rights in a more restricted sense, or that 
there exists right as such, which is not directly and immediately 
characterised as moral. Take, on the one hand, the duty of loving 
our enemies and their corresponding right to our love, and on the 
other, take the duty to pay one's debts, or the duty not to rob 
and murder one's neighbours and their corresponding right not to 
be robbed, murdered, or deceived by us. It is obvious that there 
is an essential difference between the two kinds of relation, and 
that only the second of them falls within the scope of justice in 
the narrow sense of the term. 

The difference can be reduced to three main points : 
(i) A purely moral demand, such, e.g., as the love for one's 
enemies, is unlimited or all-embracing in nature ; it presupposes 
moral perfection, or, at any rate, an unlimited striving towards 
perfection. Every limitation admitted as a matter of principle is 
opposed to the nature of the moral commandment and under- 
mines its dignity and significance. If a person gives up the 
absolute moral ideal as a principle, he gives up morality itself and 
leaves the moral ground. Juridical law, on the contrary, is 
essentially limited, as is clearly seen in all cases of its application. 
In the place of perfection it demands the lowest, the minimum 
degree of morality, that is, simply, actual restraint of certain 
manifestations of the immoral will. This distinction, however, is 
not an opposition leading to real conflict. From the moral point 
of view it cannot be denied that the demand conscientiously to 

2 B 


fulfil monetary obligations, to abstain from murder, robbery, etc., is 
a demand for what is good — though extremely elementary — and 
not for what is evil. It is clear that if we ought to love our 
enemies, it goes without saying that we ought to respect the life and 
property of all fellow-men. The higher commandments cannot 
be fulfilled without observing the lower. As to the juridical 
side of the matter, though the civil or the penal law does not 
demand the supreme moral perfection, it is not opposed to it. For- 
bidding every one to murder or be fraudulent, it cannot, and indeed 
has no need to, prevent any one from loving his enemies. Thus 
with regard to this point (which in certain moral theories is 
erroneously taken to be the only important one), the relation 
between the two principles of the practical life may be only 
expressed by saying that legal justice is the lowest limit or the 
minimum degree of morality. 

. (2) The unlimited character of the purely moral demands leads 
to another point of difference. The way in which such demands 
are to be fulfilled is not definitely prescribed, nor is it limited to 
any concrete external manifestations or material actions. The 
commandment to love one's enemies does not indicate, except 
as an example, what precisely we ought to do in virtue of that 
love, i.e. which particular actions we ought to perform and from 
which to abstain. At the same time, if love is expressed by 
means of definite actions, the moral commandment cannot be 
regarded as already fulfilled by these actions and as demanding 
nothing further. The task of fulfilling the commandment, which 
is an expression of the absolute perfection, remains infinite. 
Juridical laws, on the contrary, prescribe or prohibit perfectly 
definite external actions, with the performance or non-perform- 
ance of which the law is satisfied and demands nothing further. 
If I produce in due time the money I am owing, and pass it to 
my creditor, if I do not murder or rob any one, etc., the law 
is satisfied and wants nothing more from me. This difference 
between the moral and the juridical law once more involves no 
contradiction. The demand for the moral inner disposition, so 
far from excluding external actions, directly presupposes them as 
its own proof or justification. No one would believe in the 
inward goodness of a man if it never showed itself in any works 
of mercy. On the other hand, the request to perform definite